Racism & Comments

Today, I suffered a racial slur in the comments to my post from yesterday about Cycling, Transit & Rules of the Road. “Jim G” wrote:

Have you ever had someone hold a door open for you because you were close by or had many shopping bags? It’s called “courtesy”; it’s ‘being polite’ from one human being to another.
The bus driver was being polite to you as a courtesy because he recognised that you, as a cyclist, were a vulnerable road user.
Next time someone attempts to be polite to you, for what ever reason, give a friendly wave and say “Thank you”. In the meantime, I strongly recommend that you enroll in one of the bicycle traffic skills courses presented by the Bike to Work Society; your cultural background appears to be other than local, caucasian, Canadian.

Particularly offensive is his last sentence, because it is:

  • Bizarre
  • Irrelevant
  • Incorrect

It is bizarre because nothing in his preceding comments prepares the reader for his ad hominem attack on my “background.” It is irrelevant because my background has nothing to do with the topic of the post; no matter what my background is, I have a right to expect safe and predictable conditions when operating a vehicle on public roads. It is incorrect because none of what he says about me is true. I have lived in British Columbia for eighteen years, on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver for the whole time; that makes me local. I am “caucasian,” in the sense that I think he means (white skin, European ancestry), although the fact that anybody is using racial classifications to signify something essential about another human being is surprising and confusing. Finally, I am and always have been a Canadian citizen and have lived in Canada for all but a year of my life.

Jim G’s final sentence also contains another incorrect suggestion/assertion: that I should “enroll in one of the bicycle traffic skills courses presented by the Bike to Work Society.” As I mentioned in my reply to his comment earlier today,

in fact, I did take the VACC’s Commuting Cycling Skills course in 2008, in which they taught us that we should obey the regular rules of the road and expect other road users to do so. One of the exercises we did [during that course] was to wait our turn, even if motorists tried to give us the right of way, in an effort to encourage them to follow the rules of the road too!

Jim G’s might have been correct earlier in his comment that the bus driver was trying to be polite in letting me turn in front of his bus. The point of my post and letter to B.C. Transit was that it was a misguided attempt at politeness, since it put me in a dangerous situation, and then descended into impoliteness when the bus driver and two of the drivers following him yelled at me. It was also impolite for him to inconvenience his passengers and those behind him unnecessarily.

Jim G’s comment has forced me to consider creating a Comment Policy. This blog is still new and in flux, so I do not want to put many restrictions on what can and cannot be said in the comments here. However, I will not tolerate racism, homophobia, sexism or other forms of ad hominem attacks. In the future, this will mean that I will delete comments that display these characteristics, if the comments are aimed at other people and/or groups. If the comments are aimed at me, I will write a post like this one, aimed at reeducating the offenders. To be clear, all further comments should stick to the arguments and ideas expressed in the posts, and not make personal attacks.

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4 Responses to Racism & Comments

  1. Jim G says:

    Earlier today, I thought either you were very naive or this whole issue was part of an advanced Psychology experiment to see what reactions came forward.
    I had thought that anyone who would actually believe – and suggest the rest us to believe – that we should ‘expect other road users to obey the rules of the road’ must be completely naive. I find it very difficult to believe that the VACC would promote such an idea.
    I suspect, although only from what you don’t say, that the bus driver probably waved to you to procede with your intended left turn. If I am correct, then you may have missed this very important cue. Did your body position, in any way, suggest that you would patiently wait until all approaching traffic had passed, or did it suggest that you were waiting for the next available opportunity to cross?
    My extensive observations – call it ‘research’ – would suggest there may be some cultures on this planet that do not include ‘politeness to others’ or ‘consideration of others’ as part of their cultural vocabulary. This is NOT racist; it may be culturist. From your initial posting, and for whatever reason, it appears that you may not have recognised ‘politeness’ in the bus driver.
    It has taken many, many years of polite persistance, but most cyclists in Greater Victoria have a positive relationship with most of the local bus drivers. Your letter to BC Transit may have abruptly undone all that work.
    When someone, for whatever reason, gives you the right-of-way, please remember the polite response – from you – is to graciously accept the right-of-way and procede with caution.
    Although you may “have the ‘right’ to expect safe and predictable conditions when operating a vehicle on public roads”, you should not ‘expect’ to have these conditions. None of that has any relevance because, under the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act, a bicycle is NOT a vehicle.
    Once again, I recommend that you consider upgrading your bicycling skills and knowledge by taking the BTWW Traffic Skills course, or the national CanBike 2 course. We would all benefit.

    • Alan Philip says:

      Well, you can call me naive then. I DO expect other users to obey the rules of the road. That is why rules exist. The alternative is called anarchy. I also believe that there are times when politness is misplaced. I suppose that places me in some weird culture because of it. I have, on occasion, had drivers stop for me when they have had the right of way. I have neither expected nor WANTED them to do so. That merely causes confusion as to why they would stop in that situation. They would not have stopped if I were in a car. I do NOT want to be treated differently because I am on a bicycle. As far as I am concerned I am a vehicle and I operate as one. That is the way I was taught. I cannot believe that you are advocating something different. To quote the Motor Vehicle Act:
      “Rights and duties of operator of cycle
      183 (1) In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.”

      As to being “culturist”, are you implying that there exists a “culture” of impolite people? That is stretching the definition! It is also totally irrelevant.

      On one point I agree (somewhat) with your post. I thought the last few sentences in the letter to transit were over the top. Victoria’s transit drivers are on the whole quite respectful of cyclists, and to suggest discipline for politeness is excessive. However, on all other points I agree with Vincent, and am sorry that you felt the need to be rude in your responses.

  2. John Luton says:

    Ditto from me. Racist comments have no place in this discussion (or any discussion, for that matter).

  3. Pingback: Mea Culpa « Vincent's Victoria

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