Black the white

I was on a solace ride yesterday. You know what those are. You’re feeling sorry for yourself so you go pedal around in order to feel better.

I rode down to the bike path. Summer was in full swing. No covids anywhere; they were all dead and vanquished by Our President. Plus, people were tired of covids. “Such a pain,” they said. “I ain’t got no covids anyway. See?” [Turns out pockets to show no covids hiding there.]

So everybody was at the beach and those who weren’t on the beach were on the bike path. One lady pulled an amazing move. I’ve only seen it a couple of times in real life, but it’s not terribly rare on the bike path. I call it the “Oh, look!”

She was in front of me on the right side of the path. I was going extra slowly. Then she saw something. “Oh, look!” she said to herself, and swung to the left in a perfect 90-degree turn. It would have ruined anyone trying to pass, unless they were hoping for a hideous t-bone collision, but that wasn’t me. I was going slowly and assuming everyone was trying to kill me.

I kept going all the way to the Redondo Pier and went under it into the tunnel. Halfway through I started getting passed by black guys on bikes, a steady stream of twenty, then thirty, then forty … they were chanting “Black lives matter!”

It looked like fun so I did my own version of the “Oh, look!” and hopped onto their train. After a minute or so I started talking to a guy named Chris. “Is it okay if I join?” I asked.

“Sure!” he said.

He told me about the ride, which started a couple of weeks ago and which had doubled in size each time. “I used to be terrified to come to this part of LA,” he said. “I literally had an instruction manual.”

“Wow,” I said. “Well, thanks for coming, and welcome to the neighborhood!”

We got to their lunch stop on PCH. I chatted with the ride leader, Brandon, for a couple of seconds, and with one of the riders who’d been the DJ at the Saturday #BLM ride in Leimert Park. It makes an impression seeing forty or fifty black guys riding their bikes through the lily-white Whiteyville of Whitenessland, U.S.A.

A good impression.

It also made me think about the day before, and riding from the South Bay up to Leimert Park. I never felt nervous or in danger riding through south LA. Why did black guys have to feel terrified about coming down to Whitenessland? I felt ashamed.

But I also felt optimistic because the rides are going to continue. The problems that beset white and black America are driven by money and will only really start to improve when wealth inequality starts to improve, when we can give healthcare, education, and housing to everyone who wants it.

In the meantime, being able to safely cross town and enjoy the beaches is a great way for white people to be confronted with black reality, the reality that black people are real. They exist and they exist here and they exist on your streets on your beaches in your communities in your shops and stores, and in your public spaces, with this exception: None of those things are “yours.”

They’re ours.



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20 thoughts on “Black the white”

  1. Great post. Short and on point. Thank you… should I be in LA, I’ll join in.

  2. From last week’s Beach Reporter:

    >>Also on Sunday, Zins (Manhattan Beach police Sgt. Tim Zins) credited citizens with alerting Manhattan Beach police to a group of about 40 young people riding bicycles who were disobeying traffic laws. Dispatchers also said the tipsters who called in claimed the youngsters were shouting expletives as they rode, said Zins.

    >>The group, said Zins, “who could have been there to cause some type of trouble” was riding in the middle of Rosecrans Avenue in Manhattan Beach traveling west.

    >>Dispatch received several calls about them, he said, so police followed the youngsters onto Valley Drive and into Hermosa Beach. There officers from multiple agencies convinced the bicyclists to “turn around and head back the way they came,” said Zins.

    We still have a ways to go in Manhattan Beach…

      1. Seth, I encountered the group as they were riding down the strand in Hermosa on Sunday. The strand was packed with walkers, dogs, skaters and bikes (a typical summer Sunday). They were riding like like idiots, cutting in and out all the people, riding on the wrong side of the strand. Riding way faster than what was safe, even on a weekday. When they got to Hermosa Pier where the red lights were flashing, they rode right through without slowing down. It’s cyclists like them (I don’t care what color they are) that give the rest of us a bad name. They were riding downright dangerous.

        1. Because the Strand is such a normally safe place to ride your bike on a sunny Sunday, where white people never do anything to endanger others, behave badly, slash across the path, stumble onto the path drunk, toss volleyballs onto the path, ride drunk, crash each other out, fight, yell, or throw down trash. So, because you are obviously “color blind” and “don’t see color,” I guess the message is “Go back where you came from” until they can learn to be like good white citizens, or better yet just learn to be white. Those guys should have read your manual: “Black people welcome as long as you behave perfectly according to what we say because white people behave perfectly except when we don’t we are white so it doesn’t matter.” Got it.

          Also, they will be coming through next Sunday. I think it will be a great opportunity for you to join up and give us some pointers. Maybe you could start off by reminding them that “All lives matter”? Then telling them you don’t care what color they are, and how they are giving the “rest of us” a bad name.

          By the way, how do you know which group it was? There were several. Oh, right, I forgot. They all look …

          1. Wow, you really blew this way out of proportion. I was just letting you know what I saw them doing. If I saw a group of white cyclists doing the same thing (endangering people) on the strand, I’d be saying the same thing about them. By the way, when I said the “rest of us”, I meant cyclists. Don’t make everything about color.

            1. I think the point is that there is a group of white cyclists that do the exact same thing every Tues/Wed on the Parkway, it’s the NPR. Crashes, collisions with cars, altercations, fisticuffs, spilling out into the travel lanes … you name it, it’s happened.

              It’s a double standard to argue that one group of black cyclists pedaling for change are giving all cyclists a bad name when the NPR/Donut/Montrose rides do all of that and more, with this exception: They aren’t 99% black.

              I think what’s out of proportion is the white inability to carefully and radically analyze all of its opinions about blacks and test them against systemic racism before uttering those opinions. The proportion of white opinion about blacks is way out of proportion to white opinion about whites, as this example demonstrates.

              I also disagree that black cyclists on the bike path give “us” a bad name. I think they give us a great name, the name of a society that encourages people to cycle in public spaces, the name of a society that doesn’t hem people into their neighborhoods based on race, the name of a society that tolerates some rule breaking if that’s what it takes to make the omelette.

              Most importantly, how many of those guys were welcomed? How many of them were told, “Great to see you! Come back soon!” Because that’s the mark of an open society. Calling the cops and berating them for their behavior is exactly what the status quo expects to happen.

              Finally, a key point of racism is that what you say to a white person doesn’t always sound the same when you say it to a black person. “Watch it, asshole!” to a lycra crown speeding on his TT rig to the ride sounds different from “Watch it, asshole!” when said to a young guy going not as safely as you’d like in the whitest of white enclaves as protest against racism.

              My thoughts, anyway …

              1. I don’t care if they are black, white, yellow, brown, green or purple. I was never implying that a group of black cyclists give us a bad name. This conversation that you started happened to be about a group of black cyclists. I was just pointing out that they were being extremely dangerous. They weren’t on the bike path, they were on the strand which has a speed limit of 8 mph. And yes, there are all colors that do the same stupid shit, but not in a large group like they were in (at least not that I’ve seen and I’m out there all the time). The group is certainly entitled to protest but not at the safety of the public. I’ll bet if they went through there at a nice easy pace, there would have been a lot of others riders that would have joined along. That would have made a stronger point, I believe. This was never about race to me, I don’t believe cycling see’s colors, at least not my friends and I.

                1. Well, saying that you don’t see color if you’re a white guy is problematic when you are specifically talking about a group of black cyclists. Here is what people of color hear, some of them, when you say that:


                  Or you can just Google “I don’t see color” and you’ll see why, actually, you do.

                  1. Would better wording be “I don’t judge people by the color of their skin”?

                    1. I think better would be to have an open discussion about race, a discussion that includes people of color. Two white guys like us are probably not much more than an echo chamber.

    1. That’s unfortunate. Typically, folks general environment, how they’re nurtured, and exposure shapes the perspectives of most humans. I’m not sure how often residents make 911 because of a group of cyclists, and some “traffic” infractions, but skin tone reveals a harsh in our society that exists in this country. All too often fear creates a hostile environment. Communication goes a long way. Have some dialogue before predetermined conclusions are drawn. We are all people on this earth.

      1. Low income and minority groups are disproportionately cited for bicycle traffic citations. It is a huge problem because they are typically not simply hobby cyclists, but people who use their bikes for transportation.

        The people in Hermosa, Redondo, and Manhattan Beach regularly tolerate big groups of white cyclists “clogging” up their streets and never call 911. When the skin color of the big group changes, the 911 calls start.

        1. Perhaps unaware, but a superiority complex could an explanation for the discrepancy. Residents sort of using the police to enforce things that may make one uncomfortable. A “police state” of mind, if you will.

  3. Black the white… well-written article.
    I really hope that you feel much better about yourself now. You were among good company. You were pedaling around leading Black Men of Excellence in high positions. The voices of powerful influence for the future. Great Networking!

    1. They were leading men, indeed—a new generation of leaders I’m happy to follow.

  4. If you have another opportunity to talk with these cyclists you could talk about being good cycling citizens and not to take example from the many whites who are turds.

    I’m sure that they would still get paranoid-based responses from the community, but riding with responsibility robs the racists of ammo.

    1. I’m not even sure it was them. And moreover, I think we are at a place where doing the right thing by black lives matters more than being responsible bike citizens. In other words, whites need to be confronted with black community in the white community. Let it be uncomfortable and let it bring out the racism and the hate. Too many people hide behind the gates pretending to be liberal and supportive of the black struggle as long as the struggle happens elsewhere. What better place than “our” bike paths? I get your point; of course riding sensibly has a place … but how do you have a conversation about bike safety when the issue of blacks being killed by law enforcement is still being hotly debated? How important is a slightly messier bike path if that’s the first step to letting the world know that it’s not okay to murder blacks?

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