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.”
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