I was born and raised in San Francisco. In my lifetime, I’ve watched our city’s Black population decrease to less than 4 percent while the share of Black people among those experiencing homelessness has increased to nearly 40 percent. I’ve watched San Francisco’s Black community continuously fight displacement and gentrification and mourn the deaths of too many Black people killed by police.
Last week, I was at an action where I watched a friend mourn her brother who was on his knees with his hands up when a Vallejo police officer mistook a hammer as a gun and shot him through the window of a police car, taking his life. This is personal. And as much as it hurts, now is not the time for watching. As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to propel forward, non-black people of color and white allies need to take action.
With protests erupting across the country and here in San Francisco, we must center Black people as we take action. This is especially true for solidarity rides in the bike community. The amount of people who showed up to the solidarity bike ride hosted by Critical Mass in San Francisco on June 6 was incredible. However, as a queer woman of color who feels strongly about police brutality, I was incredibly disappointed to see no real leadership, direction, grounding or demands from the Black community. I saw no organization, route, program, speakers or chants. Instead, we aimlessly rode our bikes up Market Street and dispersed in the Castro. I saw people treating the ride like a party rather than a protest or ride of solidarity. To plan an action for the Black Lives Matter movement but not have Black people leading, speaking, or present is not solidarity. It’s performative.
We need to talk about anti-Blackness in the biking community. Biking is predominantly an able-bodied, privileged, affluent and entitled activity, and this is especially true if you’re white. At this bike protest for the Black Lives Matter movement, white people still frowned upon and felt uncomfortable by the group of Black and brown biker kids popping wheelies in the street. How can we talk about building safe streets for all if Black people cannot move freely?
In stark contrast to that experience was a solidarity ride on June 11 called “Bomb Hills 4 Black Lives” organized by a young Black woman in the skating community. Hundreds of people joined in to ride their skateboards from Twin Peaks to the Embarcadero. It was led by Black people with many speakers who were Black women, and an agenda to hold space for healing, coping, and addressing anti-Blackness in the skating community.
A solidarity protest is not good enough if you are not centering the voices and experiences of the Black community. White allies and non-Black people of color, to believe that Black lives matter means to show up for Black people and to let them lead while you follow. Showing up can mean a variety of things! Immediately, you can do the following:
- Donate your wealth to causes that support Black Lives Matter.
- Create and share content that uplifts Black voices.
- Support Black-owned businesses.
- Show up to actions and put your body on the line to protect Black people from police, if you are physically able.
- Show up for the Black community at city hearings to speak out against policies that will further harm and displace them.
- Show up for Black people on other issues like housing/job discrimination, mass incarceration, public health, and education because police brutality is just one factor of systemic racism.
It is clear that the people in our biking community have work to do to unlearn anti-Blackness and learn how to show up. So educate yourself, there is too much information and knowledge accessible in our hands to have any excuse not to.