Where the Surf Meets the Turf
So this week I got to go to Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack. For those of you who don’t know, Opening Day is this big racing event where rich people come to drunkenly throw away their money while wearing pastels and Sunday church hats. It’s also a *decidedly* white space. Or rather, a space possessing a lot of Whiteness.
There haven’t been many events or places I’ve come across in Southern California that feel almost completely untouched by the passage of time, but the races is definitely one of those. Besides the fact that I was able to come as a guest rather than the help for the “Lady of the House”, a lot of being there felt like I’d time traveled back to the 1930s. Men in newsboy caps and suits, women in gloves and intricately embellished fascinators; humans and horses posturing alike.
For a lot of people events like this are whimsical — an escape to a “simpler time”, an excuse to play dress up. Which it definitely is all of those things, don’t get me wrong, but if your skin is darker than a brown paper bag, there’s an added dimension. You’re not just seeing old-timey men yelling jovially at a racetrack, you’re recalling images of old-timey men yelling racial slurs and standing stone-faced under black bodies hanging from trees. You’re not just seeing elegantly-dressed women giggling coyly in the stands, you’re remembering elegantly-dressed women posing for photos with their dark-skinned house help nursing their child in the background. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a littleee eerie.
But I guess that’s what happens in a country whose traditions are interwoven with its legacy of racism. If you’re going to have an event that was birthed in the midst of Jim Crow and stays largely the same for decades, it’s going to keep feeling like it’s happening during Jim Crow.
Isn’t that what happened in the South? Where tradition and preservation are so paramount and everyone’s fighting to keep things “the way they are”, despite the fact that the way things began was steeped in racism, thus tainting many of their long held “traditions”? I dunno.
Listen, I’m not trying to bash Opening Day — I did have fun and you know I love a good theme party. But I’d be remiss if I ignored the complex underpinnings of it.
I mean what do you guys think, I’d love to hear your (respectful) ideas!
In the meantime, I still slayed (below), so I linked similar pieces of my outfit (below below) so you can slay too :)