#BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter
I have come to realise that just as Black people, or darker-skinned people in general, are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to race and ethnicity, cyclists are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to the mode of transport or travel.
This realisation came to me recently while I was mulling over activism on social issues, particularly issues on anti-Black racism and anti-cyclist sentiments that have persisted for many years.
For a start, what do #BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter have in common?
On the surface, both of these liberation movements seem unrelated and disparate because one has to do with race and the other has to do with the mode of transport or travel. But I would venture to say that both the Black community and cycling community have been subject to systemic oppression and inexplicable hatred from others for the longest time.
For the Black community, the age-old enemies have always been “micro-aggressions, white privilege and white supremacy“. Through centuries of white Euro-centric media propaganda as well as colorist traditions and mindsets in various parts of the world that favour white skin or fair skin over dark skin, the most sacred spaces in Black people are “often filled with stories of trauma, internalized racism and the struggle of self-love“.
Similarly, for the cycling community, the enemies are usually prejudice, ignorance and classism. On pavements or sidewalks, cyclists are often unwelcome as they are seen as a menace or nuisance by many pedestrians. On roads, cyclists are also regularly harassed or bullied by many motorists who drive cars, taxis, buses or trucks.
Both the oppressed groups – the Black community and the cycling community – often feel like they don’t really belong to the societal system because they don’t fit into the perceived norms. They are also often subject to unfair or negative stereotypes.
For example, whenever the issue of anti-Black racism or police brutality on unarmed Black people is brought up on social media or discussion threads, someone would attempt to derail the conversation by mentioning some negative stereotypes such as Black-on-Black crime instead of acknowledging that the problem of racial discrimination and institutional oppression does exist. The irony is that Black-on-Black crime is a direct result of White supremacy and internalised racism. If not for White supremacy, would Black people (or people of colour in general) be struggling with internalised hatred towards themselves and towards one another?
Similarly, whenever the issue of anti-cyclist sentiments is brought up on social media or forums, someone would attempt to deflect from the issue by talking about errant cyclists who knock down pedestrians on sidewalks or who flout traffic rules on roads. While there will always be a handful of rude or inconsiderate cyclists who give the majority of cyclists a bad name, it doesn’t detract from the reality that cyclists in general are discriminated and not given equal space, whether on pavements or on roads.
Contrary to negative colonialist views of Black people, Africans and African Americans in general are some of the most amazingly warm, humane and hospitable people in their own right. They have contributed to many important inventions and shaped the American culture, and they excel in art, sports, music and entertainment, to name a few. Without Black musicians, for example, there would be no rap, R&B, rock and roll, and soul music as we know and hear them today.
Similarly, cyclists are changing the world for the better in a number of ways. They take up less space and help ease traffic congestion on roads. They are environmentally friendly, as compared to motorists driving greenhouse-gas-emitting vehicles. Many of them also advocate a healthy lifestyle.
It is time for the world to acknowledge that Black lives do matter and cyclists’ lives do matter. It is also time for the world to stop subscribing to negative stereotypes of Black or darker skinned people as well as of cyclists and stop harming or killing them, and start appreciating them for who they are and how they contribute to the betterment of the world in their own ways and start standing in solidarity with them.