I did *not* write the original post about how biking teaches people about white privilege. This post is my response to the original post.
This blog post has been getting a lot of attention this week. The author argues that for many privileged white people, riding a bicycle is one of the few times in our lives where we can feel what it is like to be marginalized (he brings the analogy to a racial conclusion).
I have heard this analogy before. It is true that it is a rare form of “-ism” for middle//upper class white folk to deal with.
BUT (and the commenters also point out a lot of buts), us white people cannot handle such marginalization! No we cannot. And so many of us run to city planning meetings demanding our bike lanes and paths. And the city planners listen to us because we are WHITE. And then we get what we think we deserve.
And so you can begin to see the problem not with this analogy so much but with this false pretense that we are indeed marginalized. We may be marginalized riding down a busy street but a lot of us know that we can fix our predicament. And that is a notion no one else shares with us.
With that said, if I had more time, I would run down a list of articles discussing EQUITY in bicycle planning. It is happening so fast I can barely keep up with tracking it all.
The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”
I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than…
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good points here but i don’t necessarily agree that white cyclists get what they want; in the vast majority of places, we are still forced to bike in unsafe conditions, and take our lives (and our struggles) into our own hands. for many, it’s a lesson in being marginalized, ignored (by police), placed in danger. there might be some places where that is changing, but they are precious few.
that said, your admonitions are spot on.
Yeah I was thinking that too, Bill, re: not *everywhere* do we get what we want with bicycle amenities. You know me and my hyperbole. Thanks for commenting!
I thoroughly enjoyed your critique, Melody 🙂 spot on