I am half Chinese and half Danish/Scandinavian. Most of my life I have considered myself to be just 100% Minnesotan. It was easier to focus on the white part of my heritage and to be “colorblind” even to myself. Then thirteen months ago it finally hit me that I was a Woman of Color.
In the last year I have felt the tide of racial tensions rising in this country. I realize now that I’ve had opinions and reactions that were biased, selfish, or simply ignorant.
After over a decade of personal bike journey I’m also claiming the identity of Biker. My experience as a bike commuter is helping me see the experience of others.
As a biker I can be doing nothing wrong. I can be doing everything right. Yet I must constantly be on alert for my safety. Sometimes it’s people who actively don’t want bikers in their way. More often it’s just because I’m invisible to them. And then there are times when well meaning people end up putting me more at risk. This is a problem on both an individual and systemic level.
A driver can do the entirely wrong thing, nearly kill me, and then be so angry at me as if I should apologize. First they threatened me with their car. Then I’m threatened by their anger. Sometimes it’s because they actually hate bikers or are just hateful in general. More often it’s because they were startled-scared and their reaction was self-righteous defense.
I’m not going to stop biking on streets. But it would be nice to feel safer. It might never be 100% safe (nothing is) but it would be nice to feel more secure in my right to the space. It would be nice if the system didn’t feel set up against me (and it’s so much bigger than bike lanes).
Everyone has an opinion. Not all bikers have the same experiences or are the same kind of biker. Many people never or rarely bike and defend car-centric rights and use of space. Many bikers want different things to make their experiences better. But all the bikers I’ve met can be thankful to live here because it could be worse and believe it could be better.
Now read this again. Replace biker with Person of Color and driver or car with white privilege. I think this is what many have been saying about their experience as a Person of Color.
Maybe there is part of your identity that might help you better see the experience of others. This was mine.
You could also simply insert the word woman as it is not safe to be a woman in our society. Most men do not realize that we are always on guard. As a life long biker I must say that it was much easier in the 60s and 70s when I was a biker. A biker was not hated but simply a curiosity back then.
I know, I’m 7 months late commenting on this. I read it back then, but it deserved a little more thought than I had time for at the moment. But running across it and reading it again, I just want to say- good insight, good analogy, good for you for sharing. If we are thoughtful and courageous people, we examine our identities all our lives. Refining our understanding sometimes allows us to consciously shape our identities, finding more peace and satisfaction, sometimes more power, and often more ways to contribute.