Our Rights to Exist: Road Safety and Internet Safety

I bike to work. Twelve miles in each direction, sometimes in very hostile environments, but always cautiously. Because, you see, as I am one of the few people who travel by bike down this thoroughfare, often drivers and their vehicles do not know how to approach. And so I – like many other bicyclists – can get angry when it comes to my personal safety. I’ve many times considered carrying a slushie and turning it on whatever car makes a quick right from my left in front of me, or pushes me to within one inch of the curb. I used my longest fingers to salute to a truck driver this morning when he felt that going down a steep, long hill wasn’t scary enough with traffic to my back, but that he should come within a few inches of my body. I get angry. And I’m glad that I get angry. It’s a survival tactic.

Ever have a pedestrian jump out in front of you? Or a bicyclist chomping down the sidewalk where your preschool daughter was preoccupied at spring? Or a junk truck driver making a quick right while you’re walking straight with the stroller through the Walk sign that the traffic gods have given you – and then the stumped driver is miffed that you dare exercise your right-of-way? These are not acts of principal nor opinion. The very steps one takes, the very movements one makes while driving, the slightest deviations on a bicycle could be an issue of life or death. Could mean breaking a neck. These are not trivial pursuits – life can sometimes be dangerous.

It’s one thing to honk at a guy you think cut you off in traffic. It’s another to hunt them down to teach him a lesson. That’s probably going over the line, as it may get both drivers, passengers and on-lookers seriously injured. But yet commuters are constantly hounding cyclists for their reactions to speedy, reckless drivers being in their path. Look at the vehicular homicides of bikers and I can guarantee it is no overreaction. While bicyclists only account for 0.6% of commuters, they account for 2.1% of road deaths and injuries. In New York state, they account for roughly 0.5% of commuters and 4.9% of road fatalities. A twenty pound bicycle will not protect us from your two thousand pound Ford Escort, let alone a 15+ ton Mack truck. Oftentimes, the margin of error that pushy drivers will lead a bicyclist to is close to zero, which convinces me that my own existence on a road that I legally share, is not welcome – that some people would prefer me to be dead than to have to negotiate for my presence or even be aware of my presence. I do not ride for them, though. And I do not need their permission. But I do seek their compliance, even if it comes by shaming and marginalizing their behavior.

I hate to get #NotAllMotorists, but yes, the majority of drivers are kind, give plenty of leeway, wait when necessary, give room for me to navigate tricky potholes, double parked cars, and other potentially dangerous obstacles. Most wait a little extra for me to cross the intersection before they head out. Most also are cautious about opening their doors. The vast majority do not make left turns coming my way when they see me speeding up to that intersection. The vast majority do not honk at me, sending my heart racing, while they are behind me and for no better reason than to tell me I do not belong. And I thank drivers when they are kind. But I’m not going to thank everybody for doing what they’re supposed to by way of law and rights. #sorrynotsorry

Bicyclist safety is integral, and I will not apologize for thinking my life on the road matters, for getting exercise and cutting down on fossil fuel dependence, for losing weight, for saving money. I will not apologize for my body on public roads that are ostensibly made for all. And I will not apologize for using my body and self to raise awareness that cyclists share the road as well and deserve dignity and respect.

Likewise, heterosexual Religious Right Christians will consistently try to run LGBTQ Christians off the road. When they aren’t outright demonizing LGBTQ people and erasing LGBTQ Christians, they often frame the issue of LGBTQ people asserting their own rights as an issue of “opinions” and “thought policing.” One formative and integral theologian and speaker whom I have, until now, admired, made an analogy about the word “marriage” being changed in much the same way that Nazis and Communists have changed words to erase people. Seriously. So when GLBTQ Christians spoke up about this and examined his theology and rhetoric, they were ridiculed and mocked, sidelined, deliberately misinterpreted, heads compared to “empty space.” Their thoughts on their own embodied experiences were, apparently, wrong. And White, cis-hetero men know best, amirite? /sarcasm/

This is a way of curbing, of threatening with big trucks, of trying to scare marginalized people off the road. It’s an abject disregard for the safety of already marginalized people.

Relatedly, people should not apologize for making their presence known online. I’m thinking here specifically of the harassment that women of color, transgender people, and others get just in trying to speak of their existence, make their presence and worth known in a corner of the internet. When White men barge in and say “not all men!”, we tell women that their experiences aren’t valid. As well, we tell them something they already know in a patronizing way that ironically proves a point about the effects of patriarchy and misogyny upon men. Conservative and progressive men (and sometimes women) interrupt, dominate, ridicule and threaten the lives and work of women of color online who try to create their own space and have every right to the *ahem* Information Superhighway that White men have even though we often feel that we are entitled to it and that the road is ours.*

Although black people make up a fairly large (proportionately-speaking) percentage of Twitter users, they are a rare sight in media. In US culture (and elsewhere), they have been effectively silenced from the mainstream. This is doubly true for black women. And more so for GLB women. And tremendously so for transwomen, particularly transwomen of color. Look at how RuPaul – who is a male drag queen – treats trans people, by using slurs and defending his use of slurs. These slurs turn into threats. These threats turn into violence. These tactics of writing them off, calling them complainers and toxic are means of curbing Black, Asian, Latina, and Indigenous women and running them off the road.

Marginalized people pushed to the curb have every right to speak up. I believe it is our fundamental job as progressives to give them an ear, and sometimes a hornThis is how we lean forward – in solidarity.

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*And I know this is where conservative and progressives alike will say that I’m talking in conspiracy theories or whatever. No, study sociology. Racism and misogyny and patriarchy and queerphobia aren’t just about individual attitudes, they’re institutionalized and in many ways a part of who we are as a society. It is an institutional change that needs to happen and will be stunted as long as the dominant groups are insistent that we “are not like that.”

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5 thoughts on “Our Rights to Exist: Road Safety and Internet Safety

  1. Pingback: Being as an Act of Political Defiance | Leftcheek deuce

  2. I noticed something.

    Why is it that conservatives don’t get called out for “thought-policing?” Why is it when minorities get attacked and they fight back, they are ones who get accused of that? Last time I checked, it has always been the conservatives who are trying to keep us who are different from the set norms in a place where we don’t want, and when we say that, they are so quick to demonize us. They are the ones who are trying to keep us in check and prevent us from living in which we want to individually. Sometimes you just have to tell a bigot to shut the ever-loving f@#$ up.

    • I actually had thoughts similar to this over the weekend, corresponding with how Political Correctness is often villified as changing the discourse, when the ways that words are wielded by the powerful are often used as elite-saving weapons. In Orwell’s classic, it’s the powerful, not the marginalized, that control the language economy. So now it’s so bad that oppressed people want to reclaim the language used against their own bodies and psyches?

      Thanks!

      • Personally, I could care less about the right or the left or any of there political schemes on anything and I don’t believe in “political correctness.” I also fail to see how being yourself, a perfectly knowledgeable individual with the ability to think, act, and learn on your own accord, calls for any sort of “dissent,” especially if you have a different set of built-in instincts. I am speaking as a bicurious individual who only cares about having his own private needs satisfied.

  3. This is something I wrote and you can feel free to use it for something
    _________________________________________________________________

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDcQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthedailybanter.com%2F2014%2F05%2Fnewt-gingrich-michael-sam-and-the-myth-of-tolerating-intolerance%2F&ei=JrcOVIGfLc6xggSXw4GgCA&usg=AFQjCNFWCUQmvqkUP0SGOUMnVzioH70OcA

    Mr. Conservative,

    How dare you.

    How dare you make those kinds of statements against me.

    After hearing about your misdeeds, you have no business or right to say anything about your so called “sanctity.”

    Marrying and divorcing almost countless times and apparently leaving one on her deathbed, I heard.

    This is my official declaration of independence.

    I refuse to fall victim to fear, ignorance, and social and cultural bias.

    I refuse to keep my sexuality private.

    If I fall in love with someone of the same sex, I will show it in however way I wish and you will not stop me.

    For years, you people are the ones who have been forcing these standards and now we are fighting back.

    You are the ones who have been shoving their sexuality while we were left to hide in the closet.

    Now, we are shoving back.

    This is who we are, and if you dare to try and stop us from living the life in which we all want to individually live, we will fight.

    If you have the gall to say we are intolerant radicals while you legislate against us for being different from you, we will force you out power.

    This is my official declaration of independence.

    You better get used to it.

    This is a message to all of those who claim to oppose the “homosexual agenda.” I don’t know if you care to listen, but I cannot hold this in any longer. This is has gone on for far, far, far, far too long and it needs to be brought to an end immediately. I am here to put the enabling of this idiotic behavior to a just end.

    I am not going to be nice here.

    You are all wrong.

    Dead wrong.

    Pointless does not even begin to describe this “debate” that I fail to understand how it even started, nor does shameful begin to describe the effort you have all put into not letting other people be who they are. None of you were ever entitled to have any sort of opposition towards private individuals who have the ability to think, act, and learn on their own accord for any reason. You claim to not agree with their lifestyle so you must deny them the ability to satisfy their needs through legislation. You will not let them love whom they consent with and raise a family nor serve in the military because you are fearful and ignorant of what is different from you. You claim that this “alternative lifestyle” is either offensive or unnatural or goes against certain doctrines.

    Let me ask a question that I have asked several times before. What if I told you that their were cultures that are different from yours that consider your traditions to be just as alternative and unhealthy as you deem theirs? You people are all aware that their are those who do not believe in the divine or any of your social constructs such as gender, aren’t you? How would you feel if these cultures decided that it would be a good idea to legislate against your lifestyle and prevented you from living the way you want to live? Would you still defend their right to tell you how to live and what you can and cannot do with your body?

    If you answered no to the former questions and yes to the latter, then the people who make up this country are more twisted than I thought. It is beyond cruel, inhumane, and wrong that you would make laws preventing those who are different from you from living the life that they want to individually live. It’s even more disgusting when you claim that you, who have fearfully shoved this different form of love into the closet, are being oppressed when karma comes knocking at the door.

    You enforce all of these regulations on how people express their love and explore their body and when people rightfully object, you call for retribution. Never once have any of those who have a different sexual orientation acted to prevent you from worshiping the god you wish to worship or loving who you wish to love. It is an understatement to call you a hypocrite for saying that we are shoving our sexuality down your throats.

    It has been long time for you to face the reality that people are evolving. People have been exploring ways since the beginning of time how their bodies work and how raise their offspring to be better human beings. Your insecure actions are preventing that evolution and you need to be stopped as soon as possible. It has never been your right to decide or even opine how people who are not you can and cannot live and it is a fact that these people can raise families and serve.

    It is a fact, it was never about opinions or beliefs, and you people have a choice to make.

    You can either admit that you are wrong and carry the burden so you yourselves can become better people, or you stay under your rocks and be swept away by the tides of history. I won’t force you to decide but here’s hoping you make the right choice and cast off all of your bigotry. Until then, you all need to do the human race a favor and shut the ever loving hell up.

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