Hatred, prejudice, and intolerance is alive and well here in the South. For that matter it is alive and well in most of the US, and in other parts of the world, especially in the so called “Civilized” world.
Countries like Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, places where people are educated and well informed, and you would not expect such base behavior.
It is against the law in most of these civilized countries to show intolerance to another based on their race, religion, sexual preference, etc.
Hate crime and bias crime laws are numerous and varied enough to inspire whole law classes or online criminology courses, and new ones are still being passed.
Most people do not openly show prejudice to another on these grounds; it is no longer socially acceptable. I hear less racist jokes or comments than I did twenty or thirty years ago.
However, if it becomes socially unacceptable to be prejudice against one group, the human race can improvise and find others to attack where it is okay to openly spew out hatred and vitriol towards that group.
Whenever there is a cycling related story on a news media’s website, just read the comments from the general public. Even when it is a report of a cycling death where family, loved ones, and friends of the deceased are reading these comments; the hatred and intolerance comes spewing out.
If it were the death of a black person that was being reported, these same people would not post racial slurs, even though they could do it anonymously. If they did the news media would be quick to delete it as most readers would find it extremely offensive.
Where is the difference? A cyclist has died, and strangers crawl out from the under-belly of our so called civilized society, reacting to some basic tribal instinct, to make a judgment on that person simply because he was riding a bicycle.
They base this judgment on the worst behavior they have ever witnessed by other people on bicycles. Maybe they haven’t actually witnessed this behavior, but they have read about it in similar comments on other cycling related articles.
These comments perpetuate the hatred, just as racial slurs and jokes used to perpetuate racial intolerance. They post put downs and remarks about the appearance of cyclists, they ridicule the clothing, and post worn out cliches like "Lance Armstrong Wannabes."
If you think about it, this has nothing what-so-ever to do with anything, in the same way that the color of a person’s skin was never a valid reason for hating a complete stranger.
The other day I was riding my bike on a street close to my home, the road was straight and traffic was flowing past me without problems. A beat up old pick-up truck pulled up behind me, the driver revved his engine a few times, got as close as he could then gunned it, passing me with barely twelve inches to spare.
I could see the driver stretching his neck to look back in his rear view mirror to see how I would react. In my younger years, when I was full of piss and vinegar, I would have least given him the finger. I might have even chased him down to try to catch him at the next traffic light.
Maybe now I am a little wiser, or maybe I just don’t have the energy, but I decided the best course was to act like nothing had happened. To give him the finger would have only made it a game and encourage him to do it the next cyclist he saw on the road.
I could have taken his number and reported it to the police. It is against the law here in South Carolina to harass a cyclist, with a penalty of $250 fine. However, I have emailed my local police department before on cycling safety issues, and have never received a reply; I doubt they would do anything.
Criminology is seldom applied such incidents to properly investigate death or injury to cyclists; this reflects the attitude of the general public. Just as years ago, attacks on black people were ignored. My basic human right to travel freely on a public highway is being threatened.
The action of the driver of this pick-up truck was based on prejudice and intolerance, and had he injured me it would be a hate crime. How else can you describe an attack on a complete stranger for no reason other than that person looks different and has chosen a different form of transport. Apart from that, I was hurting or hindering no one, and did nothing to provoke such a response.
Do we need to be constantly adjusting our criminal justice system? Bringing in more laws making it illegal to show intolerance towards this or that particular group. We need a large section of the population to realize it is morally wrong to attack someone verbally or physically. Especially when the attack is on a stranger and is based solely on appearance or someone seen as different.
To those who perpetuate this intolerance I say this: The cyclist you see on the road is someone’s son or daughter; someone’s father or mother. Yet some of you would run them down and kill them because they dare to ride a bicycle on what you perceive as your highway.
When their death is reported online others will post hate comments implying that they somehow deserved to die; thus you breed more intolerance.
Shame on you, shame on you