A Response to Jeremy Dowsett
Recently, Lansing, Michigan resident Jeremy Dowsett wrote an article that was featured in a business and news publication called “Quartz.” The article was titled What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege and compares being a minority to riding a bike in a busy city in Jeremy’s effort to give a less aggressive explanation of the concept of the often discussed “white privilege” as seen from both sides. For the most part, Dowsett paints a pretty clear picture of what white privilege is socially and I agree with what he says in his article. I just have a few thoughts to add to what he had to say.
Jeremy Dowsett is a white man but is a father to multiracial children, so white privilege is an important topic to Dowsett because as a result he gets to see what it’s like to experience it from both sides when by himself and with his family. He chose to compare it to riding a bike because he relies on his own bicycle to get to and from work everyday, and in his bustling industrial town of Lansing, biking through the streets isn’t always an easy trek. He has many dangerous encounters with motorists which cause him to cheat death more times than he’d prefer. Plus, just like any other busy city, Lansing has it’s fair share of kind drivers and mean drivers.
Jeremy claimed in his article that he had a realization on his bike one day that he wasn’t so different from the minority citizens facing a society designed around white individuals as he biked on a busy city street that prioritized cars and trucks. He was a bicyclist in a transportation system with an automobile privilege, and minorities out there (like the victims of police violence taking over the evening news in recent times) are trying to make it in a land made for the whites.
Jeremy made a few good points in his article and pointed out some truths about white privilege that don’t always surface in the usual sidewalk or bar discussion. He brought to light that just because white privilege may exist, doesn’t mean all white people who may benefit from it are bad. For example, maybe the trucker who passed Dowsett on the street yesterday and threw a wake of snow in his face was just happy that he could go home from trucking for the holidays and see his family again and had no intention in burying any nearby pedestrians or passerbys in Frosty’s innards.
Dowsett also pointed out that even if all dangerous motorists had their licenses revoked today, he would still be biking in dangerous conditions tomorrow. This is because the roads he would be riding on would still be the same roads designed to favor cars and cast cyclists aside. The point being that if what remains of racists are no more, the system that we face would still be the same system that was designed in favor of whites.
I understand what Jeremy is saying, but something that he didn’t mention in his essay is that roads can be repaved. We have machines that can tear up asphalt and vehicles that can lay down new paths. We have the equipment and the ability to reimagine our transportation system if we ever desire to do so. At the same time, even though our societal system may be skewed in favor of a certain group of people, we have the ability to bend and change its principles. It was intended to evolve with the times, it’s just that some factors have kept it in the slow lane (see what I did there). Sure, changing the grand social mindset wouldn’t happen overnight. Dowsett did point out that if we initiated change, it would probably take years. He’s not wrong. The police violence carried out on black individuals in the south that was so prominent and accepted decades ago still lingers in the southern states of today. Just check the news. It’s been over a century since we saw this behavior and it will likely take at least a century to totally rid society of it. Of course this is just one example. White privilege doesn’t just deal with violence, but the many actions that may be overlooked when carried out by certain people.
I would like to dispute Pastor Dowsett on one of the things he mentioned in his article. He believes that the system that he discussed in his article is not a level playing field. Personally, I think the one difference that society and roads have is that one was actually designed with the intention of operating with equal conditions for all. Roads definitely favor cars. The lanes paved for usage by cars and trucks every day have exponentially more surface area than the sidewalks allotted for bikers and pedestrians. In the designers and builders defense, many more people rely on cars for their daily commute than a bicycle or their own two legs. The difference with the system that Dowsett discussed is that it actually was designed to be equal for all. When the framework of society was crafted, it was meant to provide equal opportunities for everyone. However, the same freedoms that this brings are what allows some people to bend the system in their own favor, and often against others who don’t end up reaping the same rewards.
I’m not really a religious person (I’m agnostic) so I usually don’t really look for a pastor’s viewpoint on controversial topics in fear of a stereotypical religious response, but I do believe Pastor Jeremy Dowsett was very insightful in What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege and he pointed out quite a few things about the awkward topic that don’t quite make it so awkward as some media sources might portray it to be. Though there are some things I had some disputes with, I believe Pastor Dowsett was very wise in the explanations he gave in his essay.