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.
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