Biking advocacy and race
This is a really good blog article on the subject, I know there have been other threads on the subject, but I thought this article was good enough that it needed to start anew. Practically a reference work, with a lot of good suggestions. Valuable reading for the upcoming season.
I apologize in advance if anyone feels like it is “beating a dead horse”, but it is just one of my “hot buttons”, it’s my opinion that this issue needs to be kept alive in the conversation.
Good post. Really relevant considering the threads over the last year that edged into the territory of “minority outreach.” Thanks.
It’s a tough topic.
I liked the article, and it made some very good points. However, it seems to focus on low-income “people of color”. There wasn’t really much mention for why middle-class “people of color” in urban areas don’t ride bikes (or of any other race besides white, black, and Latino).
Also, it implied that people of color are either black or Latino. Why aren’t there more Middle Eastern/Indian/Asian cyclist? why aren’t they even mentioned?
Stand by the racks at Pitt or CMU and count the number of non-white bike riders you see–they are almost white. Why? It doesn’t have much to do with most of the reasons in this article.
To me, the article is really about bike advocacy and socio-economic status, not race (and by saying it is about race is a tad racist).
I’m now curious if Ivan Illich did any follow-on research to his work Energy and Equity?
The car is a sociological/cultural icon, even well beyond our borders. Per Nick’s response (a good one, btw), I wonder if there is a cultural stigma associated with bicycles that we don’t understand?
Nick – I think the article was attempting to address race in cycling advocacy, where “advocacy” was more focused on helping low-income people, rather than just getting butts in saddles in general. Perhaps middle class non-white people, with less of a demographic legacy of middle-class-ed-ness (word?) have cultural views towards cycling more similar to lower income non-white people than to their middle-class compatriots of other races? No idea if that makes sense, this stuff is way outside my philosophical backyard.
Regardless, it’s an interesting article with good points (though I agree it appears to ignore the money side of things). I see parallels between the advocacy problems/recommendations mentioned and what I noticed in effective aid work oversees (much closer to my philosophical backyard).
If you want to help a community, no matter the color, nationality, socioeconomic status, or education level, you have to engage that community, become a part of it, and work within it’s existing cultural framework or any change made will be temporary and ineffective at best. And simply because outside solutions always fail is no reason to ignore an opportunity to help improve the standard of living for anybody. However help offered without extreme respect smacks of Victorian style “assimilation” and will do more damage than most other legal interactions.
I thought it was going to be an article about bike adovacy and bike racing. I skimmed through it real fast looking for the racing stuff.
One of the circumstances in my life that accelerated me thinking about these issues, when I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was mad passionate about motorcycling. I would leave home at 8 in the morning and spend entire days blasting around the hills of West Virginia, southern Ohio, Maryland. I would then come back to town and hang out at gathering spots with other riders and talk. Some suburban white guys, black guys from the hill, North Side, wherever. If you were a rider, we could hang, one of the most truly color blind experiences I’ve had (not too many women, a whole other story). As I talked to these guys, it seemed like they mostly just blasted around town. And it occurred to me, would a 30 year old middle class black man feel safe poking around the backroads of appalachia, alone? Probably not. 30 y.o. Asian man? 30 y.o. middle eastern man? 30 y.o openly gay man? Was heartbreaking to me to imagine myself in those shoes.
Take the same story, insert cycling. Could a middle class or wealthy non-caucasian person travel around the countryside with the same impugnity as a white? I think not, and that is shameful. So, it’s race, it’s class, it’s apparently just difference.
So the reason that I am moved to drag these things into the light, attempt awkward, difficult discussions, is not to do something for another group that is somehow perceived as “needing assistance”, I don’t feel that way at all. I do feel a responsibility to deal with and change attitudes within communities of which I am perceived to be a part.
I don’t want to “help the black community” per se, however, I feel I must help to get the fcking boot off of their neck.
I found almost everyone I met on the GAP very nice – but then I wondered if it would be so were I black.
When I was in west africa, I was often the only white person for a hundred miles – the nearest tens of thousands of human beings were a different race than I was, some had never seen a white person before. I was alone, young, female, and felt incredibly safe virtually all the time due to the culture of the people surrounding me. I saw the occasional asian and middle eastern person, and their experiences seemed parallel – they keenly felt their difference but didn’t feel any threat due to it.
What both angers and saddens me the most is that if you took any single one of those wonderful human beings that I encountered over there and dropped them into suburban or exurban Average White Bread America, I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t have the same experience I had of feeling incredibly safe and welcome, due to different cultural relations between the races over here. I’m not saying it’d be universally bad, but WAY more of a mixed bag for them… I’m assuming, because I have no idea.
It’s not just being a minority, it’s being a minority where that’s considered a bad thing amongst the majority. Why some majorities are cool with differences and some aren’t, I may never understand. But humans in general mystify me.
In the late 1800’s and into the first part of the 20th century, black Americans who became successful, such as Jazz musicians, Major Taylor (woot!!), and others, who went to Europe expressed amazement at the level of acceptance they received. I have no idea of all the cultural factors in play, but probably because there were relatively few blacks, they were perceived as a novelty and not a threat to the status quo. It takes dedicated nationalist and xenophobic movements to indoctrinate the masses in the fear of those who are different.. In the great US of A, we’ve been indoctrinated to fear and loathe blacks for 400+- years. Now it goes on to include muslims. And re: the bizarre societal acceptance of lesbianism as opposed to gay men? Because lesbians are not perceived as a threat to white males.
I’m tossing out a lot of stuff here, but it’s a big old Gordian knot of f’ckupedness.
Oh and I almost forgot, why was Nancy Pelosi so widely despised and ridiculed in this country, while shitforbrains CryBoehner can say, mm, pretty much anything and be lauded? (a. sshhh, a secret, middle aged middle class white men are afraid of powerful women.) Gordian knot.
When riding bike or motorcycles, I rarely feel as comfortable in the country as I do in the city. Although most of my experience in rural area or small towns have been non-eventful, or even positive, it only takes one bad (in this case violent) event to make you uncomfortable.
I get flack for it from friends, but I am rarely comfortable in an environment of all white people.
I think one of the issues around problems with racism is, if you’ve never experienced it, you’ll never really understand what it’s like. Plus, those who experience it all experience it to different levels and in different ways.
Growing up in my situation (surrounded by mostly middle-class, educated people), it is extremely surprising how much racism I’ve experienced–especially being of a minority that most people don’t even include in the racism conversation.
Because lesbians are not perceived as a threat to white males.
That seems exactly backward to me, and does a fairly poor job of explaining why homophobia is so much stronger a force in the Carribean, Africa and black urban American environment than in white America or white Europe. I’m not trying to start a race war, that’s not my point at all, just that I think it’s not related to white male hegemony.
When riding bike or motorcycles, I rarely feel as comfortable in the country as I do in the city.
Yeah, well… me too. I tend to lump all the various ‘isms’ under the same umbrella of hate, though.
Nick – I’m not even comfortable in an environment of all white people, and i’m as white as a girl can get. Was raised in a less homogenous society than average, I guess. I remember going to my cousin’s school stuff, plays or band things, and being totally wierded out – he was raised in Hampton (in High School we called it the “Great White North” with a shudder).
But that’s different from the people around me actively being hostile towards me over something I can’t change or hide.
I know a fair number of people who moved out of the “city”, or their parents moved out of the “city”, to get away from “the wrong kind of people”. They scare me because they think I’m “one of them” when in fact I have absolutely nothing in common with them, being a bike riding, city loving hippy. I don’t know what about my appearance/demeanor makes me look like a good little xenophobe, but the things people are comfortable telling me have made me physically ill.
Edmonds – there’s a disturbing trend in South Africa called “corrective rape”. Not that any rape isn’t disturbing, but homophobes raping lesbians is common enough there that it has it’s own term and is being discussed by their government. Lesbians are ok here (relatively) – but do not enjoy similar benign apathy in other cultures.
I don’t understand how some people feel so comfortable confiding in me about their hatred. I’ve had family members of (white) girls I’ve dated try to have a conversation with me about “how disgusting inter-racial dating is”, only to end with, “well you don’t count.”
^ people, ugh. That must be tiresome and depressing (if not enraging).
I’m tempted to imagine having a snappy comeback in a situation like that, such as “you’re one of the friendliest racists I’ve ever encountered,” but I imagine it might have similar outcome as flipping off a bad driver.
@ nick “how disgusting inter-racial dating is”, only to end with, “well you don’t count.”
The appropriate response would be “One, two, three, four….”
Which part of white America are you referring to? Most of the homophobia I’ve experienced has been from white males, including several slurs I received Tuesday morning while riding to work
ej, yes I’ve been reading about that. unimaginable.
If I’m not mistaken, in that same culture, gay men are simply executed.
we have a looong way to go on this issue. Chris Rock said it pretty well on NPR this morning believing that a country honest and accepting of it’s past and present, is a country that will elect a black man with a speech impediment to the presidency.
Until then, the tyranny of the majority will apply resistance to the minority. Why go against the grain – and ride a bike – , if attempting to be part of the crowd or “a productive member of society” is just as difficult?
You have to be pretty sure of yourself to ride around this town. in a country where the posture of a crowd will strip you of your dignity, why bother?
sloaps, I struggle internally with this, why go against the grain, why bother. I don’t know.
Pierce, I would never claim that there is no homophobia (btw, I think that’s a lousy word) in “white america”. Of course, I too have been attacked by white rednecks calling me “faggot” or “pussy”. I don’t believe this is because they genuinely believe that I am gay — I think it’s a manifestation of a generalized ethos of hatred. But this is easily as complex a topic as veganism…
sloaps – I loved that Chris Rock interview, he said it so clearly. But I wonder if we would elect a white middle aged protestant man with a speech impediment either? Perhaps if choosing between the two, it might matter, but people are cruel about all non-conformities.
Edmonds – the point of going against the grain is that by standing up and saying “no, those words and actions are unacceptable and I do NOT agree with you simply because I look/love like you do” you’re chiseling away that safety blanket of perceived majority that the bigots wrap themselves in.
If their minds are closed, they will learn to close their mouths. That’s one less voice of hatred that a neighboring open mind will hear. If their minds aren’t set in stone yet, they might start thinking.
Sure, on occasion we’ll get stomped on for our efforts. We’re still better off than the people AT whom all that hate is directed. I’m not saying go to a neo-nazi meeting and start extolling the virtues of multicultural drum circles. But live a life that brings you no shame, whatever you perceive that to be.
It’s the same reason we do any sisyphean chore – because life filled with filth and nasty is unbearable and unsafe for ANY of us.
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