June 26, 2020 § 19 Comments
When the protests over the murder of George Floyd and numerous other unarmed black Americans erupted, I was skeptical that anything would change.
My reason was simple. The root of racism is economic. America was founded on slavery, built by slaves, and maintained by unpaid black labour. No protest, no police reform, no autonomous zone anywhere will ever change that.
Revolution in America will never be by the people in the streets. It it ever happens, it will be in the tax code. Until wealth is transferred from those who have it to those who don’t, racism will thrive.
But nonetheless, one step to that change is awareness. A lot of people are aware of racism that previously weren’t, and a lot of people who were aware of racism have expanded their knowledge of its breadth, depth, and destructiveness.
On the other hand, many if not most newfound supporters of racial equity are fake. The fakest of the fake are of course in the cycling industry, and I give you a few random examples below. What all this means isn’t that they’re racist–we know that because, cycling. What it means is that you can dress up the windows all you want, but until you address the foundation that the house is built on, you aren’t changing anything and you aren’t supporting meaningful change.
Let’s take a look at USA Cycling. Immediately after the protests crescendoed, USAC said this:
As the leader of the American cycling community, USA Cycling understands we have been a part of the problem in the inequality and representation in our sport. No amount of talk can change the past, we must use our position to take action to embrace, lift up and ride with the Black members of our cycling family to ensure equality, equity, transparency and dignity. Riding bikes is a privilege, to safely explore the streets and trails of this country. We are proud to be ambassadors for this privilege. USA Cycling will use its voice and position as the National Governing Body for a sport that continues to grow in its inclusion and is committed to driving necessary change. We ride with you.USAC Statement
What does this even mean? “Embrace, lift up and ride with the Black members of our cycling family”? This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read from USAC, dumber than their “See no evil” comments on Lance during the doping heyday. Black cyclists don’t want to be embraced, lifted up, and ridden with, at least that I’ve ever heard.
They want a spot on the national and Olympic teams, they want youth development, they want events in their neighborhoods, they want money pumped into supporting black bike racers, and they want access to junior/amateur/pro teams, coaching, and equipment. Cory Williams remains one of the best bike racers in the US. Never once has USAC ever reached out to him for anything, ever. Cory doesn’t want to be lifted up; he lifts himself up just fine. What he wants is a seat at the table and plate with the same food as everyone else.
What black riders deserve is for USAC to carve out half its budget and devote it to black cycling initiatives. That’s meaningful change. But USAC, which has a long and nasty racist past that it admits to having, and I quote, “we are part of the problem,” will never do one fucking thing to financially shift resources from white to black riders and black communities. How do I know? First, their admitted history. Second, they are run by whites. Third, their web site. Check it out.
The home page features a photo of junior girl rider who isn’t white, quickly followed by pane after pane of typical white bike racers. That’s it! That’s the sole commitment of USAC to dismantling racism–one photo of a kid who may or may not even be black. Search their web site for programs, plans, declarations, policies, board resolutions, anything that even hints at changing the racial makeup of the organization or its membership and you will find NOTHING.
Okay, so the organizing body is useless, racist, and never going to change. What about the liberal media that supports racial equity? I’ll lump Velonews and Cyclingnews together here because they are one and the same–slightly journalistic fanboy publications whose primary goal is to sell bicycle clothing and components. For grins I’ll toss in Pezcyclingnews and RedKitePrayer.
Velonews has an article about racism in track cycling on its front page, and other than that, the only black face is a woman in the background of a Rapha clothing ad and a rotating ad from Zwift with Rahsaan Bahati.
Cyclingnews features a story about black UCI pro Teniel Campbell, and buried way deep into the story we learn that, “Systemic racism is a problem in cycling’s highest echelons and black athletes have come forward to describe their experiences with racism in the sport, including French track sprinter and Olympic medallist Grégory Baugé.”
Really? No shit? Systemic racism? WHO KNEW? Equally buried, Campbell lays the blame where it belongs and where it always has belonged and where I stated in the beginning: With money.
“You could say that within Europe there’s a bigger investment in the sport. They have the programmes, the money to finance development programmes, scout talent and they have structure, organisation and money.” Campbell attributes these factors to the reason professional cycling has such little diversity.Teniel Campbell interview, CyclingNews.com
Pezcyclingnews is like, we don’t know or care cuz bike racing and white. Their motto “What’s cool in cycling” is obvious. White. White is cool.
And my favorite, RedKitePrayer, continues to post up all white all the time with a sop to bikes being used by the police against protestors … all written from the whitely safe all white all the time white man’s escape land of Santa Rosa, CA, where you can be liberal without having to interact with pesky black folk. Their motto, “The soul of cycling,” is backed up with the most honest photo of all–a past-middle-age white guy with a sagging gut in a lawn chair posing in a cycling kit.
What all of these dishrags have in common is that none is able to see anything outside their white perspective. Cyclingnews, which has started running a few stories about black cyclists, reinforces the racism with every article because black cyclists aren’t going to be helped by inspirational stories about those who’ve beaten the odds, they’re going to be helped by stories about the racism within cycling media and cycling national organizations that actively represses, discriminates against, blocks, and refuses to fund black riders.
Ditto for hacks like Pez and RKP, whose entire perception of cycling is through that of white men. The cycling media won’t address the issues of funding and economic inequality because they’re part of the problem. A real concern with the images of black cyclists and the problems they face would require black publishers, black editors and writers, and the commitment to buying from black service providers.
Even more to the point, it would require people to really own up to the past and what it means, and by past I mean “everything that has happened until today.” Germany continues to openly discuss and honestly represent the Holocaust and to take responsibility for it. It paid reparations to Israel and is the home of choice for people like Daniel Barenboim. That’s because fighting racism can’t be done with a one-day pivot and a couple of photos.
It has to be a discussion, admission, and analysis of culpability backed by cash on the fucking barrelhead. Everything else is complete and utter bullshit cum dissemination, with a dash of hypocrisy thrown in for flavor.
Seven years ago I wrote that USA Cycling Hates Black People. You could update that title by deleting the word “USA.”
Ain’t nothing changed. And until you show black cyclists the money, it ain’t never gonna.
Ok. You got me. It was never the $2.99 but the 3 or 4 clicks it would take to sign-up. Well I threw caution to the wind and even clicked through on a day that my coach told me was strict rest and to limit clicking. I’m sure my intervals will suffer, but this was worth it.
Thank you for this – I’d write more on how important this piece is but I think you already get that or you wouldn’t have written this…and I have a job that needs me on a conference call at 8:00 this morning
Finally and for the record I think you can be an unfair ass at times, especially to some pretty good folks doing some semblance of their best, but those times are far outweighed, both in frequency and quality of thought, by the times your voice is crystal clear in truth and what is right.
Keep on rollin’ brother. We all need to hear this.
Thank you! And I appreciate the honest criticism.
That’s all cycling is to many people, sock dope my kit, sock dope my carbon wheels, sock dope my frame and the root cause sock dope my brain.
I notice that Irish slavery is the current topic of the day of faceballs, along with a picture of Italian miners in a Belgium mine, FFS. anything so the world can get back to sock doping.
#soxrule One sock to rule them all, one sock to find them, one sock upon the foot and in the darkness bind them.
I’m back already
Interesting timing – just got a promo from Rapha for the L39GION of LA training jersey with all profits going to the team.
I’m not willing to say anything delusional about the seeds of change being sown, or from such small acorns mighty oaks grow…but the timing is interesting as this must have been in planning pre the murder of George Floyd.
I’m not sure if I am actually game enough to buy the jersey, but I’d buy a 100 of these jerseys before I’d buy any UCI team swag
“America was founded on slavery, built by slaves, and maintained by unpaid black labour.”
Couple thoughts/questions came to mind:
1. Does this mean the most “prosperous” (monetarily speaking) is to build a country on slave labor?
2. Slavery and the mistreatment of black people in the USA doesn’t happen without the enforcement of the US government. IE: Progressives and Conservatives have zero solutions here.
Anyway, always enjoy getting your perspective on these topics Seth.
1. I don’t believe we are prosperous. We conquered a land rich in resources and reserved the bulk of those resources for a minority. Prosperous nations are ones that more equally distribute wealth, because prosperity means housing, healthcare, and education.
2. I don’t know what a progressive is. People either support redistribution of wealth or they don’t. Everything else is a sideshow. All people who support the system as it is today support a regressive tax scheme and the oppression of the many by the few.
As a Native person, I’d quibble that most of the land was stolen in a long con, rather than conquered, because conquering turned out to be really friggin expensive. But that really just underscores your main points about economics, which are bang on.
You’re right. It was a long theft backed by the willingness to strategically kill and imprison where resistance was strongest. Land of the, uh, free.
And thanks for the comment!!
Leonard Cohen “Everybody Knows”
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Thanks so much for todays blog. A most excellent first part of the article, it is the truth, and is clear and concise. I disagree, or at least don’t understand, your feelings about RKP though. Yes Santa Rosa is full of white boys, but as you have noted many times so is where you live. Why is this relevant to this conversation? This letter to the editor from the RKP article you reference (Link below) is to your point. I thought the article was simply some soul searching.
June 11, 2020 at 6:18 pm
It’s not a bicycle problem. It goes beyond a police problem. It’s a systemic “Institutionalized Racism” in America problem. This country still to this day cannot have an honest conversation with itself about slavery.
I’ve been bothered and profiled by police for as long as I can remember, even while commuting by bike, or just riding.
I’ve been addicted to cycling in all forms for decades. I live and ride in one of the most diverse places in the country, & I’ve worked in the industry for a short while. The cycling community can be very racist, even here. I’ve seen white priveledge play out on the shop floor, the mechanic’s workspace, at the meet up for the group ride, the crit starting line, the trailhead, and the velodrome infield. I’ve only occasionally called it out, I’ve mostly just put up with it.
I applaud both Trek & Fuji. It’s a start. But it’s just nibbling at the edges. This is way bigger than cycling. But at least we are bringing it up here too.
Where we live is absolutely crucial to the conversation, to our perspective, and to the solutions we propose. I’m every bit as racist as the guys at RKP and am stuck by choice at the bottom of a white well, despite the fact that I troll throughout LA County on my bike and have more contact with the non-white world than most whites. But general statements about “the problem” without commitment to wealth distribution are empty. When does RKP identify itself as the problem? It’s a bike media ad sop and has never, to my knowledge, written about racism–open to correction and retraction here. I’ve been talking about this and writing about it for years and years. That doesn’t make me any better or any less racist, by the way, except to the extent that I also put money into black initiatives, cycling and otherwise … nor does that make me any better. The only “better” is “Do you support wealth redistribution and how?”
These protests are important only if they lead to wealth redistribution, which by definition they cannot. Interest will flag, people will go back to work (or not), and the police–which are not the problem but rather a problem–will return to killing and brutalizing blacks, along with every other person who tries to opt out of the unfair, regressive distribution of resources. This is about taxation, distribution of national wealth, and reducing the gap between the top and the bottom. White people will never stand behind that en masse, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians, whatever, because it would require them to quarter, third, or halve what they possess, or support some new taxation that does it by degrees.
When J-Man’s dad says we cannot have an honest conversation about slavery, he’s talking about J-Man’s dad. Because such conversations would begin not with preaching but with this simple phrase: “I’m a racist, I am the problem, and here’s what I’m going to do about it.” That would then follow with how J-Man’s dad intends to effect wealth redistribution. It goes back to USAC’s statement, “we are part of the problem.” No, they aren’t. They are the problem. Each individual who supports the current distribution system is the problem. You can’t dissipate blame by saying “part.” Gotta own it.
Thanks for the comment and for the criticism and most of all for the support, whether you’re in lockstep echo-chamber mode or not!
Ok as usual you make a compelling case. The rise of corporate America during your and my lifetime has firmly cemented the division of wealth in our country. And the divide only continues to grow. Tax reform is an absolute must… and needless to say it is not the “reform“ that we just got from our Republican friends. The protests’ importance should not be discounted however, if true income redistribution is not achieved at this time, which we all know it will not be. This battle is long and drawn out and the fight must continue. Or we all will lose, which means the status quo of socioeconomic racism continues on. Thanks!
You are right about the importance of protest because it’s only way to spark the change. Thanks for the comments, Dave.
Also, this comment got hung up in trash, don’t know why …hence the delay in publishing it.