What Whitney Young Might Have To Say To The ChainLink Community


Background Reading

A Wonderful Leader And His Words

The Daily Beast has a wonderful piece on the life of Whitney Young.

A new documentary honors Whitney Young Jr., an unsung player in the civil rights movement.

Whitney Young, 1967. ( Frank Hurley/New York Daily News Archive, via Getty)

Whitney Young, 1967. ( Frank Hurley/New York Daily News Archive, via Getty)

In the video clip below I was struck by the seriousness of purpose this gentleman had. If you recall the turbulent time of the 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement was struggling with its identity, there were any number of bombastic voices raised to demand equality of opportunity. But Young was a quieter man who understood the nature of power and those who wield it. He was acquainted with the boardrooms of America and knew how “movers and shakers” did things.

He was less impressed with the Black Power constituents of the Civil Rights Movement who greets photographers with clenched raised fists and shouted “black power” than he was with how the Irish-American Community had quietly managed to take over the entirety of the New York Police Department. Now that is what real power does. It is not about Critical Mass Rides which are the equivalent of the Black Power activities of that time (often conducted by groups like the Black Panther Party).

Instead it is about folks who have a seriousness of purpose and do not run from “killing to killing” shouting their outrage to no avail. Rather people actually organize and understand the nature of the power structure itself and seek to embed themselves within it. Listen to the words of Whitney Young as he speaks before an audience of adults (not silly children to who do not understand what they are up against, but people who know what true power is and can accomplish things despite the obstacles set before them).

We Cyclists Set The Tone For The Discussions

ChainLinkers could take a page from this man’s book. Take for instance the most recent death of a cyclist in Wellesley, MA. What ChainLinkers are likely to do is beat their breasts and ponder their alternatives which in this instance are none. The driver was not indicted for his actions and this by a grand jury.

Now it probably has not really sunk in that the ChainLink is both an excellent opportunity for effecting change at the grass roots level whose power at the same time is being wasted by petty, inane and self-destructive individuals who haunt its virtual hallways. Take for instance the most recent example of ineffective usage of a powerful tool.

At the time of this writing there are some 74 replies to this thread. It starts out as pretty meaningless and eventually on the fourth page the original poster lets on that he was upset about the reception his ideas had received on this thread a few days before. None of these issues should have risen to the level they did but on a forum like the ChainLink it often does.

What bothers me is that everyone who is free to visit the ChainLink can see the kinds of things that go on here. Friends and foes alike can take the measure of the kind of intelligence and commitment cyclists have to the serious business of ensuring that safe passage on the streets of our cities is the first order of the day. Instead, what they are likely to find is the equivalent of black youth shouting “Black Power” with no idea of where to begin to gain actual control of the organizations with who power is invested.

Instead we spend countless hours picking fights with one another and creating inane comments while using images of people of color to belittle one another. Why should this be? Is it really necessary to use an image of Barack Obama to make a silly point when you are discussing whether or not another cyclist is free to ask hard questions?

Reply by Clint H 16 hours ago
Another opinion: it’s interesting to me how troubled some people become when they see a thread on a web site that doesn’t interest them, or that for some reason or another they deem unworthy of continuing. I see a thread that doesn’t interest me, I don’t click it. My technological OCD is not so severe that the mere existence of an unappealing thread prompts me to go to the trouble of constructing a meme picture.

Reply by Zoetrope 8 hours ago
cool-story-bro-tell-it-at-partysThis reply to the previous comment had not text, just this inappropriate use of the image of the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Reply by Clint H 5 hours ago
And this is why I find the Chainlink such a bore sometimes. You people take yourselves far too seriously. I wonder why the bicycle community has such a reputation as being full of assholes.

So what does this type of exchange tell the Senators and Congressmen of our state and national government about the seriousness of purpose of groups of cyclists in cities like Chicago? When there are going to be cuts to the military and parts of the Affordable Care Act does it really seem worthwhile to accommodate the likes of people who use a tool like the ChainLink Forum to perform verbal masturbation and to what purpose?

Were it me voting on Congress and I was not a cyclist I would assume that this is indeed a collection of anal orifices who while perhaps not representing the panoply of individuals who are serious about building cycling infrastructure it does indicate that their colleagues on the forum are not sufficiently exorcised by their behavior to provide “pushback”. And that generally indicates at least a tacit agreement with what they are doing.

Why Waste $15,000 On Cosmetic Changes To The ChainLink?

Even Bill Cosby got dragged into Zoetrope's Tirade.

Even Bill Cosby got dragged into Zoetrope’s Tirade.

There is a set of changes in the works for the ChainLink Forum. It will probably be the case that these changes are likely to improve the visual look and feel of the forum and perhaps improve the efficiency with which a member can navigate its complexities. But will there be any substantive change in the nature of the discussions that are carried out in the name of the Cycling Movement?

What is very important is that these are not random folks who simply wandered in and began behaving badly. These are the stalwarts who work for Active Transportation Alliance and other cycling advocacy agencies here in Illinois. These are people who write for nationally distributed blog system like StreetsBlog. They know one another and spend time schmoozing on weekends. In essence this is a glimpse into the very core of the movement.

Here is their justification for their behavior.

Here is their justification for their behavior.

Do you like what you see? Frankly I could not imagine a poorer image of the Cycling Community to be circulating across the Internet.

Yet, here we are. My guess is that nothing will change. There will be continual threads begun about yet another cyclist killed on the roadways of Chicago. And there will be yet more articles about how we need to get ride of automobiles on our roadways.

But truly effective work will ever be done. There will instead be groups that slavishly seek to print up LOOK Chicago stickers to alert motorists to the effect of having cyclists crash into them.

Yet there will be precious little done to educate cyclists on how to ride in buffered lanes alongside the driver’s side doors of cars. That sort of discussion (which places the burden where it squarely belongs) is not popular in cycling circles. Instead the dilettante rampages on nothing will help these folks while away the hours between photo ops at ghost bike sites and bike lane openings.

An Update That I Am Happy To Make

Every now and then there are people who “take the heat” on the ChainLink Forum and offer a measure of thoughtful civility to an otherwise boorish atmosphere. Here is a response from the “No Charges” thread of a few days ago:

Reply by Kevin C 4.1 mi 2 hours ago
As usual, I am in the distinct minority when it comes to opinions regarding motor vehicle/bicycle accidents. Before we get more proclamations that the fix was in or that the owner of the trucking company paid off, contributed to, or somehow influenced the states attorney or grand jury panel, please be aware that grand juries’ indictment rate nationally is 98+%. Grand juries are made up of randomly selected registered voters, people just like you and me. While everyone complains about getting called for jury duty, my experience is that people who serve on juries consider it to be a positive experience and they listen, are engaged and try to do a good job with the evidence presented to them.

No question that this was a horrible accident and a horrible tragedy. I read much of the police report, the investigator’s, and accident reconstructionist’s notes. Horrible injuries. But it’s not impossible for me to imagine that the driver of a semi-trailer truck hauling broken concrete (help me out Dug, 50-60,000 pounds?) would not have even heard or felt the impact with a 170 lb cyclist. He certainly didn’t behave as though he felt an impact. No braking, no swerving reported by witnesses. The grand jury heard (and saw) the evidence presented, and chose not to indict, just like they do ONLY 1 or 2% of the time.

So, a grand jury did not hear sufficient evidence to charge the driver of the truck with a crime (prima facie case to support the charges alleged). The burden of proof for indictment is lower than the burden of proof for conviction of a crime (beyond a reasonable doubt). The driver’s checkered driving history doesn’t come in before the grand jury because it’s prejudicial and has no probative value to determine whether the driver behaved with criminal intent on the day of or moments leading up to the accident.

With respect to the civil action, the driver’s record will come in, because it goes to owner’s actual or constructive knowledge of the type of driver he puts out on the road. There’s already a wrongful death suit. It’s a civil claim alleging negligence and the burden of proof is now “preponderance of the evidence.” The owner of the company was unlikely to have engaged in conduct exposing him to criminal liability, but he will be writing a big check to resolve (settlement or verdict) the civil matter. (likely seven or 8 figures depending on his insurance coverage and self-insured retention on the policy).

This is a horrible tragedy. I accept the judgment of the grand jury that it was not criminal in nature.

What really defines a movement is its thoughtfulness. Allowing the crasser elements to overtake a public discourse is unwise and will eventually make the movement represented by such people seem less deserving. It is my fervent hope that one day the folks who are the Active Transportation Alliance liaisons to this forum will display the intestinal fortitude worthy of the donations they rake in every year. We need reasoned folks in that organization who are willing to speak the hard truths to their followers regardless of whether it offends or not.