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« Steve Bilenky Fuso Tribute Frame | Main | The March of the Machines »
Wednesday
Jun242009

Bigotry 

If you find the above cartoon funny, you might be a bigot.

Think about it, would you repeat the joke if the caption read, “I once saw a Black Man run into a Jew, and didn’t know who not to help.” Most decent people wouldn’t, it would be socially unacceptable.

Those old enough to remember back to the 1950s and before. Racial jokes were accepted and it made those at the brunt of these jokes somehow less than human. To some it even made it okay to go out and beat up, or murder members of these minorities.

This dehumanizing meant these minorities were not seen as people with families who loved them, somebody’s father, mother, or child. Often referred to as “They,” or “Them,” which put a less than human face on a person, than it would by saying “Him” or “Her.”

“They” as a group were always judged by the worst behavior in that group. "You can’t trust them; they will rob you blind, given half a chance."

So too are cyclist as a group judged by the worst standard of behavior. “They always run red lights;" or are even blamed for their very existence. "They shouldn't even be on the road."

And when a cyclist puts on Lycra, it becomes his different color skin, and it too becomes fair game for ridicule. "Those stupid skin tight clothes they wear, those ridiculous shoes, and helmets."

I will admit if a cyclist strays more than ten feet from his bike he does look a little strange, but then so too would a guy walking down Main Street in a wet suit and flippers.

It is now against the law to discriminate against a person on the grounds their race, or sexual preference, etc. Because of these laws, such discrimination becomes socially unacceptable. It is a shame when society has to enact a law to force people to do what common decency should tell them what is morally wrong.

Strangely the above cartoon takes a cheap shot at two groups of people whose only crime is that they delay a person for a moment. The person collecting money for a charity that makes you stop and dig in your pocket for change. And the cyclist who may delay you momentarily, preventing you from getting to the next red light a little quicker.

Back before the 1950s a person of different race or color, could be harassed just for being out in public. In some instances cyclists get the exact same treatment today. Has our society advanced at all?

Do we have to keep passing laws to stop people from discriminating against this group or that? It is sad when otherwise responsible and upright citizens behave in this way.

The people, who draw cartoons like this, and the newspapers and magazines that publish them, justify the discrimination and need to stop. Not because cyclists as a group are too sensitive to take it, (Actually our Lycra skin is pretty thick.) but because it dehumanizes people who for whatever reason, choose to ride a bicycle.

And when you dehumanize a group of people, it makes it okay to honk at and harass, to even buzz real close and put the cyclist’s life in danger. To a very small minority it makes it alright to deliberately injure or kill a cyclist.

Some may think "Bigotry" is too strong a term, but is there any difference in hurling abuse at a man because of his race, than doing the same because another is riding a bicycle?

Some may shoot down this argument by saying a man can't help being black, but cycling is a choice. Religion is also a choice, and like religion riding a bike is my right. I have been racing and riding bikes since I was a teen; it has been a life time passion for me, I am not about to quit.

I should not have to endure harrassment and abuse because I exercise my right to do something as simple as ride a bicycle

 

From this story here

And this one

Reader Comments (13)

Ah but chuggers aren't just people whose only crime is that they delay a person for a moment. They are hated because many of them are high pressure sales people paid by how many customers they sign up. Anyone who hassles people that much deserves some flak.

And while I can understand your general issue with cycling as an "out" group getting an unfair press and judged by the worst examples - I think bigotry is going too far.


Re: lycra etc - cycling doesn't need special clothes, just ride the bike!. Or to put it another way - cycle sport is a very small part of cycling and the only one that really justifies all of that.

June 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterN

Interesting first comment. It's tough to argue with logic like that.
Dave

June 24, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

The character in the cartoon says the cyclist was riding on the footpath, i.e. sidewalk. Not sure if I would have been sympathetic either. I wasn't familiar with the term "charity mugger", but after looking it up I'm not sure if I would have helped one of those either. From a cyclist's point of view, it would have been a more clever cartoon if the charity mugger had stepped into the path of the cyclist on the street. But this certainly illustrates how the general public views cyclists.

Race, religion, ethnicity, disability and lately age, are the sacred cows of discrimination. Mode of transportation isn't yet. But maybe the day will come. People get annoyed with folks who drive SUVs, sports cars, imported cars, bicycles, even kids on skateboards. Should it be politically incorrect to hate all these people?

June 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

I understand the point you are making Dave, but I'm not sure I agree that a cartoon like this is bigotry. Another way of looking at cartoons such as this one is that they merely point out some behaviour that needs to be improved. We're not talking something that a person cannot control, like ethnicity or colour, but rather deliberately chosen bad behaviour.

It becomes bigotry when a person starts hating all cyclists because of the bad ones among them. But, I don't think it would be productive for us to ignore the bad apples just because some people might take the next step and start buzzing all cyclists at high speed just because they are wearing lycra.

As a road cyclist myself, I get pretty pissed off by other cyclists who endanger me and other people on the bike paths, who buzz by pedestrians at high speed on sidewalks, or who blow through their red light while I'm riding my bike across the intersection on the green light.

Just so far today (and it's only 1:30 PM here), I was almost hit twice by bikes speeding from behind me as I walked my dog around a few city blocks, and then on my 2-1/2 hour ride, I could easily have collided with two idiots who rode right through their red while I crossed the intersection on my green. One was a person on a mountain bike, and the other was a lycra-clad road bike rider. Both are continuing along on their merry way because they were lucky I was paying attention.

There have always been a few idiots, but in my estimation as a long-time cyclists, it's been getting pretty wild out there over the past 3 or 4 years. If some cartoonist or editorialist dares to suggest there is a problem, I don't take offence.

June 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

It does indeed look ridiculous away from a bicycle, but I didn't really come to accept looking the way I did until I made a stop at a gas station and was mocked by a pubescent boy in a baseball uniform. Apparently he's oblivious to the fact that the kit of almost any sport looks ridiculous outside its own context.

June 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChamps

You put the finger on what bigotry is: cogent logic, and correct premises. As for members of the public, and some of the previous commenters, who try to deny it with examples of annoying cyclists and walkers, they entirely miss the point. If a cyclist rides fast on the sidewalk, a black man steals my cash, or my Japanese friend dissembles, these are the acts of individuals. Having lived in Japan, I was often presumed to be loud, uncouth and demanding (though I like to think I am not) because I look N. American. As I teach my grade 5 class, the main thing about bigotry is it shows people the bigot is stupid.

Your comments about chosen vs. inherited traits in this context are very interesting. Here in Toronto, homosexuals are well assimilated (e.g. allowed to marry, protected from discrimination in the legal code, etc.). An idiot can say they chose to be homosexual, which is scientifically wrong; more to the point, why would anyone choose to join a group treated badly in so many places? Someone smarter, but no more compassionate, can say they can't help who they are, but they chose to practice homosexual behaviour or sexuality (e.g. the Catholic Church). Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nobody can be subject to any censure based on their identity, whatever you think of cyclists, non-whites or drag-queens.

June 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjamesmallon

Comparing the plight of bicyclists with blacks and Jews is a bit of a stretch.

So says this cyclist who bikes to work every day.

June 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertde

Society is in for a world of hurt when we start excusing or ignoring unacceptable behaviour on the basis that we have to accept whatever any identifiable group wants to do lest we be accused of bigotry. But I don't think cyclists constitute an identifiable minority or group when its practitioners are not actually on a bicycle.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

Pierre,
My point exactly. Back in the bad old days a black man was not in trouble until he wandered into a white neighborhood. So too are cyclists ordinary people until the get on a bike and venture out on the road where they are not wanted by some road users.
Also I am not implying that the plight of cyclists in any way compares with atrocities committed against certain minorities. I use it to illustrate the principle of bigotry. Bigotry is bigotry whether it be mild or extreme.
Dave

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moulton

Hey Dave,

I think you make a very compelling arguement, but as a resident of Melbourne here's my take:

I was recently knocked unconscious deliberately and maliciously by a driver who thought it rude of me to take the left lane. Worse, the guy has told his insurance company the accident was my fault, and since the police didn't bother to get any witness accounts in a busy street, i'm left to cover many of the bills myself. I thought it was repugnant and still can't believe that someone would have that kind of negative attitude towards a cyclist. It makes me scared to get back on the bike (haven't been on it since the accident 3 weeks ago - today is the plan), but it would make me feel much worse to ride on the footpath instead - both as a pedestrian and a cyclist, I am completely against anyone riding a bicycle on the footpath... it's for feet. No matter what the context.

There's been recent talk of heavy fines/jail time for cyclists who injure or kill a pedestrian by riding on the footpath and i've noticed there's been a lot of backlash from cyclists - this I don't understand - as a cyclist, i would have thought most other cyclists would support this move as it establishes a) we are supposed to be on the road in the first place and b) we are responsible road users who don't flout the law... Everyone who's a keen cyclist wouldn't ride on the footpath in the first place, so if you're not on the footpath, you have nothing to worry about.

As for the charity muggers - i live in the CBD of Melbourne and they are literally on every corner - not asking for your loose change, but for your credit card number so they can take a monthly instalment. If i signed up to every one of these guys that stopped me, even just for one day, i would quickly need to find a second, third job just to support them. Many (not all) are harassing, rude, and in my opinion giving charity a negative face. It's one thing to raise awareness for a cause and let people make up their own mind on who, and how much, they can support, but this is becoming ridiculous.

June 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentera window on swanston

this is a great post. I agree with you and hope that the rest of the country starts seeing this good movement and change of bicycles into their lives as something positive.
Recently I was eating lunch with a colleague and 3 rather obnoxious in suits sat next to us. They of course were talking about business and laughing on how this guy just got pulled over by a cop. "Oh who cares, it was a stupid cyclist anyhow, those people obstructing the road should all be fined anyhow" I was so outraged and furious, no wonder they had huge guts from driving around in their stupid cars. I could not believe their archaic mentality!!

xo/ from san francisco
<3 meli

June 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermeligrosa

quoting the first comment posted by N
"Re: lycra etc - cycling doesn't need special clothes, just ride the bike!. Or to put it another way - cycle sport is a very small part of cycling and the only one that really justifies all of that."
It's true. I don't need special clothes to ride my bike. Another thing I don't need is a chafed and raw ass, therefore i'll keep wearing my dorky lycra shorts regardless of what others think about it.

June 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Strong

"Back in the bad old days a black man was not in trouble until he wandered into a white neighborhood."

Is this true? I don't think so. For one thing, it was often not possible for a person of color to wander out of their neighborhood, certainly not in a car or even a horse, since they couldn't always afford to own one or the other. Nor could they vote in their neighborhood, or ride in the front of the bus in their neighborhood.

I'm not sure if the cartoon rises to the level of bigotry. But it's close. A definition: "One who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance. At best, it's a cartoon penned in poor taste, on more than one level.

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave Wyman
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