Wednesday, June 4, 2008

what's race got to do with it?

ok, i just need to share this.

the day i moved into bloomingdale, a 'friendly' neighborhood denizen let me know that 'his people' never did anything to 'my people'. it was a comment on my whiteness, and his blackness. i didn't know how to respond, so i didn't. it made me mad, because i wasn't moving into the neighborhood to judge people based on the color of their skin. i got over it, though, because every other single person, regardless of who the hell they are, has been friendly and treated me with respect since i've lived here.

until today....

i was biking home in the rain (loads of fun, trust me) and was on the home stretch: rhode island avenue between 3rd and 2nd streets, when i heard a horn behind me. i hear horns a lot. usually, it's people just letting me know they're getting close and are going to pass (likely closely, so i know not to suddenly lurch to the left). well, this car came up along side, and the guy driving took the time to roll down the window and yell, "hey, get your stupid white ass off the road!"

take note: i'm not just stupid, i'm white. that's all you need to know. forget anything else about me, i've just been defined exclusively by my race (ok, maybe not exclusively, maybe 95%, with the other 5% my apparent lack of brains).

i was immediately angry (i would argue that it's hard not to be in that situation, and i threw the guy the bird and yelled "f*** you".

well, guess what? he turned down seaton and pulled to the side of the road and got out of his car. as i biked by, he said, "what the hell did you say to me back there?" i ignored him and biked past, went to my house, and went right inside. i didn't want to start a fight (because i'd get my ass kicked....i'm 145 pounds soaking wet).

when i got up to my apartment, i looked out the window and realized this guy had driven halfway up the block, parked, and got out of his car. turns out he lives in a basement unit across the street, a few doors down.

so, i've had a wonderfully negative interaction with someone i didn't know was a neighbor. i know i'll bump into him again, since i see people on my block outside all the time. part of me would want to get right in his face and tell him what an idiot he is and how he started this whole thing, and another part of me is scared about losing teeth.

but the race thing. oh damn, i'm still sitting here shaking because i'm so mad about it. (the beer is helping a little). he could have called me a stupid biker, or a dumb kid, or who knows what, but he focused on my skin color. i've yelled at people before. but i've never yelled "hey, get your black ass off the road." that's not me.

i don't know how to end this, so i'm just going to say to everyone out there, be careful when you're on your bike. there are a lot of drivers who don't respect your right to be on the road, for various reasons.

18 comments:

Mari said...

Whatever peace I have this evening, I give to you. May it help your soul repair as such an incident makes it difficult to love one's neighbor and fellow citizen.

SydAjax said...

I've had those exact words said to me before, pretty much at or around where your incident happened. It made me mad as hell too but I chose to ignore it and then later wished that I hadn't. I'm glad you stood up for yourself not only as a biker but as a person.

Anonymous said...

this freaks me out. i wonder how i'd deal with it, realizing the guy lives across the street and somehow feels he's been slighted. i am about 100% sure i would have said the same thing passing him after he called me that. i think i'd approach him next time I saw him to talk about it. damn.

Priapus_10 said...

i hate to sound like i told you so but pls refer to: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4401523208681336634&postID=2975463141602143878
===============================
where i said:
Anonymous said...
my question is: why are you concerned ? why do you even care ? your personal safety, whilst riding your bike down P street and North Capitol should be your primary concern...you're lucky you're getting the chance to even bemoan this matter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 4:49:00 PM EST
=================================
at that time my comment was derided and dismissed as being insignificant. I'll say it til I'm blue in the face: THESE PEOPLE IN DC ARE CRAZY ! THEY WILL HURT YOU, ME OR ANYONE ELSE THAT THEY FEEL DISSED BY. not by any means do i condone their behavior, but my survival dictates that i recognize it's existence - and to make matters worse, the law really can't (& sometimes won't) protect you. it is important to realize that the 1st law of nature is self-preservation - that's why u can't argue with these people. Hopefully, your difference has been squashed. And just a suggestion: The next time you see this guy (and there WILL be a next time), just kind of nod your head in acknowledgement (in a speaking kind of way) to imply that you're not holding any grudge. You may be right about the whole matter, but more importantly, you don't want to be a victim.

The Shaw Garden said...

You are crazy, not for standing up for yourself, but for taking your hand off your handlebar in that rain! I too was riding home in it. (It was strangely refreshing besides the whole not being able to see thing).

Anonymous said...

It's an unacknowledged fact that whites in DC are often verbally and physically assaulted based on race or race is introduced as part of a robbery or other criminal act. It's completely depressing that there are so many hateful people in this city.

Peace to you and yours...

monkeyrotica said...

After years of living in DC, the one thing I've learned is that most blowhards are full of s**t. Still, this is exactly the reason why, whenever someone gives me the finger or yells something obscene, I smile and wave back. Standing up for what you believe in kinda hard with a shoe lodged in your a**.

Are you positive he lives across the street? Maybe he was a just visiting someone in the neighborhood and beating up white bicyclists in the basement. Stranger things have happened.

Mark said...

Imgoph,

I'm the guy who was threatened by a driver while on bike recently. You posted the story to your blog.

The driver who threatened to kill me called me a "white bitch" in the process. Initially, I deliberately left that part out thinking it would do no good to share that detail. I've changed my mind.

Size has nothing to do with it. I'm 6'3", 190, and the weight I do have is lean muscle mass, not fat. My would-be-killer was an obese black female in an SUV. (She hurled and hit me with a partially eaten cupcake) If she really wanted to kill me, should could have done so. Her bias and hatred were backed up with the physics of her truck.

Regardless, I continue to ride.

The outcome of these sorts of encounters is different when I'm a pedestrian. I'm called a "cracker" while walking down the street about once per month on average. (Last time was one week ago today, at N Cap and Q NE while walking from the NY Ave. Metro)

In those cases, I typically slow down or stop walking and seek eye contact with the hater. Last week's hater kept walking, didn't say a word, and avoided eye contact with me as he walked by. I've circled back on one occassion and asked the man to repeat himself. The response was "nuthin'".

I would encourage you to _always_ demonstrate that it is unacceptable for strangers to hurl race-based insults at you. You don't need to be vulgar in response; small gestures go a long way.

Most memorable encounters with haters in the 'hood:
Youngest: Aproximately 6 year old boy who called me a "bitch" while passing me on a sidewalk.

Oldest: Elderly (ancient) woman who screamed "Another white mutha-f#cker!" as I went by on a bike.

Wierdest: "F#cking mormans are here now!" is tied with:

"Cracka' straight outta Penn-SYLVANIA!"

B said...

Chachi, I'd have done the same thing as you. Definitely on a dry day, and a wet day calls for more.

There are a number of difficulties with the scenario though. Let's face it, your white ass was crazy for riding in the rain. I ain't seen your ass, but I reckon it's pretty damn white. You being stupid though, was utterly uncalled for. But when yelling out a window, sometimes words are not appropriately chosen. "Stupid" was a poor choice, and perhaps it was a substitute for crazy. However, I know a number of people who would call biking in some nasty rain "stupid" for the safety aspect...in DC or not. But really, the "white ass" can't be argued.

The driver, your neighbor, should have been much more aware of the fact that biking in DC is no easy task. Toss some rain in there, and you're talking about some frusterating, tough guy activity that stresses a dude out. Before honking, or rolling down the window, he should have recognized that his action was not acceptable. He also should have realized that his action begs for an equal response. That's a basic human right.

I can relate to the driver/neighbor having been in similar positions as his. I hope that he felt a bit like an ass, but also, like you, I hope he had a difficult internal dialogue going on when he closed the door to his home across the street.

It's easy to yell out a window from a car, but anyone who gets off a bike in DC, in rainstorm, does not look small and weak. They look like a crazy mofo that shouldn't be messed with. Don't even get me started on the rain/uphill/RI Avenue aspect of your ride - that's tough, and you still had the breath to stand up for yourself.

I hope he knows where you live and has more respect for out because of it. He most likely knows where you live. He did not come banging on your door. Thus, there's a good chance that a awkward humanly equilibrium was reached.

We need more bikers, and pedestrians, who are willing to stand up and not be pushed off our public spaces. Thanks for standing up for the rights of the non-drivers.

Anonymous said...

$5 gallons of gas will help.

Chris L said...

What an asshole. Don't let it get to you.

Try to stay off Rhode Island though...I've seen a lot of accidents along that stretch. There are tons of side streets in that area that you can you use as alternatives. I bike from Shaw to College Park a couple times a week and have found that I can cut through Bloomingdale, Eckington, Brookland, Mt Ranier, and Hyattsville without ever having to get on Rhode Island.

Be safe.

Anonymous said...

An entire blog was dedicated to street harassment in DC, until the harassment became too much to bear:

http://tinyurl.com/652q9k

http://dontbesilent3.blogspot.com/2008/02/rowdy-teens-attack-on-morning-commute.html

IMGoph said...

i just wanted to thank everyone who has commented on this post. i appreciate the feedback, and i'll agree with you all to a point. i was crazy for biking home in that weather. i seriously considered taking the bus home, but i wanted to have my bike at the house, and not leave it at the office.

i have seen the neighbor's car around a lot, so i know he does live on the block, and wasn't just visiting. that said, there have been no further incidents, so i'm just going to hope that everything is cool now and we can go back to ignoring each other for the rest of our lives...

Anonymous said...

Next time someone calls you "Cracker" or "White Bread", ensure that your retort includes some sort of food reference. Try "Black Bean Soup" or "Black and White Cookie" or "Whole Wheat Bread" or "Enchilada" or ...?

Anonymous said...

I'm hungry!

Anonymous said...

I've been called cracker faggot in Eckington... a couple of times. I've told that white people need to get out of "their" neighborhood. It bothers me like Hell, especially when the person saying it has just moved to the neighborhood on section 8 vuchers and has only been there for a week.

Suki said...

My personal favorite response when someone calls me a cracker is to say, "Actually, I prefer honky". If they say honky, I prefer cracker. You see how it goes. The person is usually thrown off guard and while this sounds horrible, now that I have a handy retort, I almost don't mind the comments as much- I almost see them as an opportunity to use my line. Nothing changes, but at least I am shaking a little less with anger and disbelief as I walk away.

IMGoph said...

suki: i like that one. i'll keep it in mind!