You Need to Fight Racism as Hard as You Ride

Chris Corona
·10 mins read
Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

From Bicycling

“We are not whole until we are all whole.”

We have all been on rides that, at some point, require us to dig deep. But we still find a way to get that last bit of energy out of our bodies. We fight, we endure. And on the other side of these rides we emerge stronger. We need to make the same commitment to anti-racism that we do to becoming stronger on the bike.

It’s easy to get exhausted by the seemingly endless stream of violence and uncertainty in recent months. Black people killed in cold blood, police brutality at protests, Covid-19 have all created a baseline of stress that we carry with us. Some would say this is the hardest climb we’ve ever done. But we can’t stop. We need to fight, we need to endure, we need to continue our momentum so we can come out the other side of these events stronger and more evolved.

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

On social media, I’ve personally noticed that information regarding racial inequity is not as front and center as it was just a couple of months ago. Those that are less affected are tiring out and are not sharing as much or tuning in as often. This CANNOT happen. We need everyone to continue. We must not fall back asleep.

I started posting a series of half portraits on Instagram to populate my followers’ feeds and send the message that we are not whole until we are all whole. A message that reminds us to stay involved, to stay tuned into the events that are happening in our country and communities. A reminder to speak up, check in, take action, or donate. We must keep the disenfranchised at the forefront of our minds and at the top of our feeds.

Here are some of those portraits, along with a few words from each subject about how cycling gives them the strength to fight for social justice and how they keep going when the challenge feels insurmountable.

NEHEMIAH BROWN

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

I’ve discovered a similarity between the fight for racial equity and cycling: we are stronger when we work together.

In response to the injustices faced by Black Americans, I prioritized making cycling inclusive and safe for Black cyclists. I started conversations with ride partners, my cycling clubs, event organizers and cycling brands. They were supportive and amplified my voice.

The work is ongoing, and I’ve met other cyclists who are doing the same within their networks. The cycling community can decide that achieving racial equity is our goal, and that we want to be on the right side of history.

CORY CALETTI

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

I’m so grateful to have cycling and all it has to offer right now. The world feels heavy and cycling brings joy and hope. Bicycling also teaches us how to suffer, how to endure long struggles, and how to rejoice when we win, even when the wins are small. As a woman in a male dominated sport who has been a longtime ally of racially and economically disadvantaged people, I welcome today’s collective reckoning over imbalance of power. Most especially, I welcome the re-examination of our complicity in our nation’s historically atrocious policies around race, as well as our economic structure that favors the accumulation of wealth over human and environmental rights. Get me on my bike today and I’ll be ready to fight again tomorrow.

KOUROSH BEHNAM

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

Cycling is a place for me to release and decompress. When I get on my bike, I focus on my breathing and the environment around me. Every single bike ride is a story to tell. Cycling for me is like hitting the reset button.

If a ride is in the pain cave, I just push through it because there is no stopping or turning back when you’re at 3,ooo feet of elevation.

That’s where we are now in this country. We need to not get distracted from the truth and keep practicing civil disobedience. We need to keep marching in the streets and stand up for what’s right. Voting for your elected officials matters. We need to get out and vote for the ideas and policies that push minorities forward. As late John Lewis (may he RIP) said, “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, we have a moral obligation to do something about it.”

KYLE THORNHILL

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

We have come incredibly far. Activism is using consistent campaigning through all forms of media to bring social and political change. If we lose the momentum we may never see the change we so desperately need in our country and around the world. In the past few months we have found our voices and we need to continue to use them through activism to spark a revolution.

CHRISTOPHER STRICKLEN

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

When we started these conversations, the need to come to an immediate solution was very urgent. Similar to the early part of a ride or the first few miles into a race, the effort we make on the bike can be impactful but also unsustainable. At this point we need to remind ourselves that the finish line, or the goal in this instance, doesn’t change. The goal has never changed. We know where it is and we know how to get there. We made an impact early in this fight but now we have to find a sustainable effort to reach the ultimate goal of equality... and that has never changed.

TOBIN ORTENBLAD

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

I truly believe now is the time to keep this momentum and actually make some change. The nation’s unrest spurred by George Floyd’s killing has everybody up in arms, as it should. It finally seems like this time the people are not backing down and not returning to "business as usual.” The “usual” hasn’t been working and never will work. The systematic racism embedded in this country needs to change and I’m feeling hopeful that this time it will. We’ve already seen so much great change come out of such a horrific death. Even if it is just an elevated consciousness, that is what we all need and that is why we cannot lose momentum right now.

WHITNEY FORD-TERRY

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

Endurance is meeting the moment where you’re at with the grace and strength to keep moving forward. Through failure and grief. Learning and unlearning. Toward a better understanding of accountability and collective care. Endurance is love. It’s putting in the effort every day because there is no finish line

GENE TORNO

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

With recent events highlighting the incredibly drastic contrasts in racial equality and unchecked police brutality against BIPOC, now is the time to not lose our momentum in our fight for social justice. So much has already been sacrificed, from lives lost to mass imprisonment and incarceration. And so many pertinent racial issues have been brought to light that it’s impossible to go back to the status quo. The only way to move on is to continue moving forward.

As with anything that’s difficult, whether it be tackling a big climb or the intricacies of social injustices, keeping that momentum, especially when things get hard or your energy starts to fade, is the key to success.

And when that drive and motivation starts to fade, you got to dig deep. In cycling, you end up putting yourself in the pain cave until you eventually see the light at the end, the descent at the top of any big climb. When it comes to fighting against systemic racism, no matter how arduous the path, you have to remind yourself the end goal: social and economic equality for all.

RJ AGCAMARAN

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

As a cyclist and a teacher I understand the importance of, not only providing tools, but teaching my students how to use them. More so now than ever, it’s not enough that we just demand for equal opportunity, but also invest to create equal outcomes.

CHRISTINE KIRKCALDY

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

This is a fight for life, a call to action for our peers, community, businesses, councils, and authorities to recognize that BIPOC life holds as much value as their own. We don’t want to have to apologize for tomorrow knowing we didn’t do enough today. Not taking steps toward equality and justice will mean there will not be a tomorrow for someone else.

The road is a hostile place. People behind the wheel think they own the road and that it’s a choice (not a law) to share the road with you—or not. As cyclists we’re left exposed to people’s actions through either their respect, carelessness, or malice. Problem is, you never know which one is coming at you. You just hope that every day when you leave the house on a bike, people on the road choose to respect so you can make it back home. Every cyclist who shares the road can empathize with the feeling of having to look over your shoulder not knowing if you’re being seen or heard.

I know voting can’t change how one individual thinks overnight, but I do believe systemic change can normalize ideas, behaviors, and policies, and over time people’s perspectives can shift. I hold onto hope that our vote for better people can trickle down the change and empathy we need for Black people and minorities to feel protected in this country.

JESSE LASH

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

Racism is not new and won’t go away any time soon, so it’s important that we all as individuals keep making daily conscious decisions to be anti-racist and check our own actions to detect when we’re perpetuating learned patterns that are racist.

The saying “to go fast, go alone; but to go far, go together” has often rung true on the bike for me, and I’m always trying to gather friends to ride together. The journey we are all on for justice and equal treatment of BIPOC folks is a long one, and it requires us to support each other, listen to Black voices, trust that change is possible, and fight until we get there.

We’re all stronger together. Whether we’re working together on a long ride or fighting against systemic racism, we need to be available for each other.

JOSH BECKER

Photo credit: Chris Corona
Photo credit: Chris Corona

The majority of riding I do is long distance and long days in the saddle, which is never easy. When everything hurts, the conversations stop, you go to that dark place in your head, and you have no choice but to keep going. Racism and social injustice are issues that cannot be ignored. We have to keep going.

When someone in your group is being dropped, you make sure you put them in the middle. You don’t leave them behind. So why would we not help others that have been left behind in our society? We should give them stoke. Ask them what they need, what can we do to help them to keep going. Fuel the fire by contributing, listening, educating ourselves, protesting. VOTE. We are responsible to ensure everyone makes it, because we are all in this together.

And if you think that racism and inequality doesn’t exist, then get off my wheel.

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