ChainLink’s Race Problem On Display…

Background Reading


The other day a thread was begun to address a robbery of a cyclist by a young African-American thug. Things began to go sideways when a forum member with a Hispanic-sounding handle made this observation:

Reply by Juan 2-8 mi. on Wednesday

© Juan

© Juan

As a last resort when passing through the WEST SIDE. A blast from my airhorn usually frightens off those animals in this URBAN JUNGLE.

I have often noted that in order to “fit in” people of color have to “out bigot” their white colleagues and friends. The irony is that these same people could easily be singled out and mistreated because of their racial and ethnic identities. When you are a male on the streets of any city and the police find it necessary to “bring in suspects” the rules against profiling “go out the window”.

What is most disturbing is that even the owner of the forum responded to his offering and said nothing about its tone. But let us continue:

Reply by Jason 6 hours ago
The whole city is block by block. That co-op right there is full of bad seeds, and there is a bunch of section 8 just south of it. Be careful around there people.

Now hipsters and cyclists are famous for their Leftist sentiments. These are the same folks who came out to support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. But evidently in practice their support of people who are economically disadvantaged stops a bit short of “openness”. If you live in Section 8 housing you are part of the “bad seed” or as Mitt Romney would say the “47% of takers“.

It seems quite odd that when cyclists want to have society pay for the installation of more bicycle infrastructure they choose high sounding arguments about inclusiveness. But in practice they are as full of resentment as the Conservatives they claim to dislike. Guess Chicago could learn a lesson from Wheaton, IL in terms of welcoming those who are struggling to “climb the economic ladder“.

Reply by lauren eg 5 hours ago
I do agree the city changes block-by-block and it’s good to know the nuances of your neighborhood.
As a person employed as a social worker, it may not be my job to police language on a bike-related forum, but since it’s so closely related to my actual job: may I *suggest* not implying that just because people live in subsidized housing that they are bad people? ’cause they aren’t, and I work with solid evidence indicating that every single day. Ain’t trying to troll; I just have feelings about these things. /soapbox
Anyway, Allison’s story inspired me to write a blog post earlier this week in which I talk not only about assault, but street harassment in general as a woman on a bike.
I’m going to be writing a follow up post to it and have been using suggestions here as help (nod to Eric Roach’s glove suggestion–srsly awesome!) and am really into women leaving comments about personal experiences and/or anyone’s suggestion of additional items used for self protection.

This very argument was what evidently led to my being “kicked off” the ChainLink. The fellow whose handle is Gabe was making the case that the entirety of both the South and West sides of Chicago should be termed “shitholes“. While that word was not used by either Jason or Juan the intent was essentially the same.

Reply by Jason 6 hours ago
I didn’t imply all people who live in subsidized housing are bad. However, crime in those areas are much higher and people need to be realistic about that for their safety.

Well actually that was indeed what your words conveyed. You were singling out people who live in Section 8 housing. And when you appeal to the racial bigotry inherent in all of us nuance is lost.

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 5 hours ago
Agreed, while there are probably plenty of very nice people who live in that Co-Op, there is definitely a problem set that hangs out on that block of Noble (and to a lesser extent Milwaukee and Division) next to it. Pointing out that a certain narrow poorly lit street more often than not has a problem group hanging around is useful information to help people stay safe, not an attack on a whole group of people. I lived in that neighborhood for three years, and that was one of the only places that didn’t feel safe to ride through.

A Contrasting View

As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.
— Benjamin Franklin

The Boy Scouts of America has had a longstanding policy of not knowingly accepting gay Scouts or Leaders. The thinking behind this is similar to the discussion that Cameron is trying to nuance. But in the minds of people all over the world “male pedophiles are gay“. It never enters the mind of most people to distinguish between being a pedophile and being gay. But you can have a fixation on young boys that does not extend to adult males.

I could equally observe that some men fixate on women in their 30s who are busty blonds and enter serially monogamous relationships with them well into their 80s while clad only in pajamas, a silk robe and leather slippers. Were it not for pills to aid their circulation this fetish for younger women would probably go out as quickly as their untended trademark pipe. Now you might get the idea that this kind of person loves women.

My guess is that he only has women as friends who are in their 30s and would not be caught dead in a relationship with anyone under 20 or over 40. This is a well-defined obsession with that moment in his youth when he felt most virile. And he keeps trying to prove that even in his 80s he can still “bag” the ones he lusted after so long ago.

But time has shown our society that today you could probably trust two married gay men in a monogamous relationship with a son of their own to properly take care of your son for a week of summer vacation than you perhaps could two priests. That is strangely ironic and saddens me. When the Archbishop of Scotland steps down because of inappropriate relationships with several other priests you begin to see the wealth of possibilities in misjudging people based upon narrow preconceptions.

We do not know that the Archbishop was a pedophile. We do know that he had a preference for adult men. But we also know that his workplace organization upholds a view of itself as a bastion of Family Values. And that is not unlike the ChainLink Forum member who thinks of his allegiance to Urban Cycling as somehow inoculating him against being a bigot. It does not. Being a Liberal does not instill open-mindedness. It merely gives you some idea of how that group wants to be perceived. What its members actually think is often quite different.

One last point. Anyone on the ChainLink Forum who does not speak up against racist talk in their midst is as guilty of the remarks as those who make them.