For the record, I join the majority of sentient humans with brains, hearts and consciences — people who know the difference between right and wrong — and oppose the unnecessary and allegedly illegal police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Closer to home, police killed Botham Jean in Dallas and Mike Ramos right here in Austin, That’s just four among the many, Many, MANY more people of color abused and murdered by police brutality and institutional racism. I’m also opposed to violent protesters distracting from the message of nonviolent social justice.
There’s not much more to add that millions of others aren’t already saying. But I will try to speak my truth as a white ally. By the way, there’s a pandemic still going on. Meanwhile, far, Far, FAR lower on the spectrum of things that matter is this. I still rode my bicycle every day in May for a total of 488 miles, averaging 15.74 per day, totaling 2,501 for 2020 thus far. And my knees hurt. Probably from biking every day in May for … you get it. If I do not report this, the government-backed terrorists win. So report I shall. Bear with me as I write a post that may make no sense but has to be said.
The thing about cranking out a certain number of miles on a bicycle came about for no particular reason. When I got a smart phone and Strava, then eventually a Garmin watch, and a better phone and a better watch, it just seemed like the thing to do. It was going to be 4,000 miles in 2016. That became 5,306. Then next year was 4,714 which made it 10,000 total. Then in 2018 4,554, plus over 500 walking. Last year, I got it back up to 5,005, plus another 550 walking. So this year, I figured 5,500 should do it. That would get me to my five-year goal of 25,000 miles. Which happens to be just a bit more than once around the equator. I’m on track to get to 6,000 this year, plus walks.
Along the way, a few people have encouraged me. Sometimes with just one thing they said. Other times, repeatedly. Saurabh, Paulo, Brandon, Paul, , my mom, my dad, other friends, cyclists, bloggers and cyclist bloggers. Some of them far faster, stronger and better riders than I. Some people just give me kudos on Strava. I don’t follow them back because they’re too good or we’ve never met and ridden together, and I have a general rule about that. I also try to encourage people, by kudos on Strava with people I have “flybys” with, friends, neighbors and you, the rare but really respected reader. Whether you bike or not, perhaps you don’t even exercise, it’s my hope you take away something from my posts.
But I’m just one dude. I only get one vote. (Some readers may not even get that.) I have a voice, as a white male it comes with some privilege (although I often don’t feel like it, I know it’s there). But times like these I have to ask myself: Am I really using my voice in a way that reflects that privilege as a force for actual good and for real change? Only 519 people subscribe to this blog. On any given day I’m lucky if 5 percent of that actually “like” a post, and am sure very few really read it. So my reach is quite limited, especially since I don’t promote myself on social media, and because I write mostly about bikes. But again, who cares? America — the world — is sick, grieving, angry and burning.
All that said, I have been known to stick my neck out in the past, when I had more energy, youth, naivete and reckless abandon. Now, in a global pandemic, I’m not high risk but not low, either. I’m an overweight fathlete mid-aged male, and most of the coronavirus/COVID-19 deaths in Travis County have been males in my age group. (And yes, people of color more than whites.) So I have to ask myself if I want to risk my life or liberty for a protest that will probably turn violent due to agitators or just angry people and not even achieve its purpose? Maybe that’s a cop out (unintentional pun regretted), or maybe it’s a little wisdom. In fact, I was going to go Sunday, but it was cancelled by Mike Ramos’s mother for that very reason.
The struggle continues. We must each find our way and travel the path that makes the most sense for us. For me, like so many of all colors, first and foremost that’s finding work and avoiding homelessness. For many, they can’t, due to the lack of opportunities, education, work, child care, access to affordable housing, food security, and basic dignity and respect. But as a white person, what can I do to be an ally, to alleviate and help dismantle racism? It’s hard when you’re following health officials’ advice and mostly sheltering at home, save for walks and solo bike rides, risking death, to do essential errands. And then become an essential worker, risking death again. Nonviolent protest is essential, too, and I’m sure I’ll be at one soon.
When I ride my bike, I know no one is going to: stop and question me for no reason other than the color of my skin. I will not be tazed, detained, arrested, beaten, shot, or have a knee on my neck so I can’t breathe until I suffocate and die. All based on the color of my skin. White people complaining about protesting racist police is like anyone refusing to wear a mask to protect others against coronavirus. Meanwhile, George Floyd said repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” before he died. This was murder, plain and simple.
But I still can breathe, and I can still bike. For however little it’s worth, it’s still my story. I wrote this in my Strava ride notes for May 31:
This is the fifth month in a row I’ve ridden an average of 500 miles. That makes 2,501 so far for 2020. I’ve had zero days off since October 11th, 2019 although a few were very short. Not great in terms of speed and elevation. But it’s not too bad a job, either, for a middle-aged fathlete with a 28-pound, 9-gear bike. Actually, I’d say I’ve done pretty good. Maybe even pretty, pretty good. To get to the vaunted three pretty goods, I’d need a new bike and a new body. The latter follows the former.•••
For those of us still here, of all colors, if you can read this, and are still breathing, you are still here. You matter. Black and Brown Lives Matter. Keep breathing. Keep using that breathe to raising your voice and protest (nonviolently, preferably). Breath while you ride your bike, walk, swim, lift, ski, snorkel, run, yell, scream, sing, talk, do pranyama yogic breathing, and meditate. Keep breathing while you cook, eat, drink, be merry, be with others, be alone, wear a mask, keep physical distance, wash your hands, shower, sleep. Just keep breathing, sisters and brothers. In and out. And tell your story — even if it’s about you bicycling 500 miles in a month and no one cares, including you sometimes, and your knees hurt, your back hurts, you have saddle sores, you lose faith in what you’re doing and why.
So yeah, keep breathing — if there’s not a cop with his knee on your neck. Hopefully that was the last time someone “sworn to protect” does the opposite. But we all know that’s unlikely. Sunday night in Austin, the police accidentally shot a young man in the head with a supposedly non-lethal beanbag — except he fell and hit his head and has crtical injuries and may die. All because the guy next to him threw a water bottle and a backpack.
It’s June 2nd, but it’s really Winter in America all over again. https://wp.me/p75hY4-2WL
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
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3 thoughts on “Nonviolent Justice for George Floyd & Breonna Taylor et al. (P.S. I Bicycled 2,500 Miles in 5 Months)”
Power and speed are not part my psyche any more. If I were in a hurry, I wouldn’t be on a bike.
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Well said. FTR, I don’t believe any cyclist is better than any other at the amateur level. Each has an individual strength. Mine happens to be riding a decent distance with relative ease because I have fairly strong, tireless legs and a trained opera singers’ lungs. That said, I don’t have the will power to do what you do…there is no way I could psych myself up to riding every days for five or six months. That is your cycling superpower. We both know cyclists who are faster than either one of us. I know cyclists who average thrice my mileage year in and year out. I also know cyclists who climb like freaking mountain goats. The goal is to enjoy the journey and will yourself to expand your abilities. You’re crushing it dude!
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Thanks, I appreciate it. Just this second write about you on Strava in response to a comment by Cape John, fellow bike blogger. Just wish I had more power and speed. We’re all awesome but I’d take your awesome over mine. Less time on the bike and more miles.