My friend and blogger to the stars Annie, asked this question. The answer, after much thought and consideration, is, because there are cars. And, if, BP had the choice to drive from their house to the grocery store, walk from their house to the grocery store, or bicycle from their house to the grocery store, they would most probably pick choice “a.”Hell, it’s just more convenient.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. First, a story:
So I’m on the phone with my mama today and she tells me she a) has a bucket list (yes, that damn list based on that damn movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan “hot breath” Freeman) and b) on said bucket list she wants to go whitewater rafting like they do in the movies.
Now, my mother has occasional delusions of grandeur and is wonderfully influenced by the power of movies and television so I understood exactly where she was coming from.
But all it took to turn her mind back to reality was to ask, “mama, what will you do with your hair? How will you care for it when you get off that wet ass raft?” Mama: “Oh.” Yeah, mama, Morgan Freeman didn’t have to worry about his hair when he did all that stuff with Nicholson. Notice, the black woman in the movie? Well, she rarely left the house or the hospital. Beverly Todd, bless her heart, had to play Hot Breath’s wife in both that movie and Lean on Me (I know, I know, she technically wasn’t his wife in the last one but she acted the same way she did in Bucket List, so bygones).
And, before I return to the main point of this week’s entry, I just want to take a tour down Hot Breath and Beverly Todd lane. Damn you Lean on Me. Skip to 50 seconds if you tire easily of Guns’n'Roses’s “Welcome to the Jungle.”
Tell it! Sing it with me: “Soooome/times in our lives/we all have pain…” You know you know the song and how to sing the song like the woman who looks like Weezie Jefferson.
So, anyway, my point is twofold: 1) Morgan Freeman certainly does not constitute a move for BF to entertain sporting events that we don’t normally partake in.
2) The only damn reason he did that stuff in the first place was because he thought he was about to die.
This terminal event is not the immediate circumstance of the majority of us BF, thus it is highly unlikely that we’ll be standing on top of the Pyramids (we’d need Jack Nicholson to personally escort all of our asses up there for that great feat).
Believe it or not, this little meander through The Bucket List has a larger point. My task is to answer the question why don’t black people ride bicycles. And I think the answer is wrapped up in a bunch of things illustrated in The Bucket List. For starters, the only reason Hot Breath could do any of that stuff was because Nicholson was rich. Thereby access is a key component. Um, I don’t know the difference (or care to count the cost) for a fixed gear and whatever the other gear bicycle is. Bikes are expensive. Add to that all the amenities of biking? The outfits. The helmets. Too much ridiculousness for when you could just get in the car and fasten your damn seatbelt.
Second point that I have to mention dare I be accused of being more essenetialist than I already am. There are black people who ride bicycles. I don’t know any personally but I did find online some black bicycling clubs. But, you know what they talk about on their forums? Can you guess? Let me tell you: how they’re the ONLY ones in their individual clubs.
But, they gotta exist in the movies right? Well, I don’t know about that either. In film, I can think of two examples.
So, I remember as a young girl, watching this movie and seeing Kevin Bacon on his bike and thinking, “neat!” and then here comes Lawrence (he was Larry then dammit) Fishburne emerge screen right and thinking, “whaaa?” I could not understand why he was there in his “ethnic” hat on a bicycle.
(Sidenote: He was perfecting his Morpheus even then because he surely took a hit so that Kevin Bacon and Keanu Reeves could save the damn day.)
The next moment:
Friday. Hadn’t seen it in 10 years but I still remember Deebo and his bike. I’m sure if Deebo thought he could steal someone’s car, he would have preferred that over the bicycle. But, you know, when one is terrorizing a neighborhood, there are priorities to consider.
What can we take from these two small illustrations? Well, there was one bruh in San Francisco in 1985 who rode a bicycle because he truly enjoyed it and had no desire for an automobile and Deebo only rode a bike through the neighborhood because it never occurred to him to steal someone’s car. Thus, these two examples do not fully explain the answer either.
Point 3: The whole idea of back to nature? Yeah, that’s not BF.
As I sat and pondered the question, I realized that in many examples of things that require “nature” and being in “nature”, that BF tend to not partake in any of those things. Think about it: do we camp? Hells no. Here’s an article I found with a headline titled, “Wanted: African-American Campers.” You can want all day long but when people (this BW included) have notions of camping as sleeping on the ground in the rain and being chased by bears,” you damn well ain’t gonna see BF trying to camp. I’m not the only one who thinks these things. Clearly the article found some more of us. And, then, there’s DL Hughley. He describes it best (start at 4:34):
And, to see that not much has changed between DL’s days with a high top fade and the days with his locs (I personally love this set but feel free to skip to 3:05):
Ultimately it’s an issue of who wants to return back to nature? The answer is typically very white. Black folks just got to be inside with air conditioning. Why in all hell would you CHOOSE to go outside? For stars? Child, please.
Or another example: exercise. Now, DBW is an advocate of exercise…even if I haven’t quite managed to make myself participate. But, one of the main reasons I don’t: I don’t want to sweat my hair out. I have relaxed hair and pay hairdressers to keep my shit together on a biweekly basis. I do not want to as we call it, “sweat in my head” and mess my hairstyle up. Thus, I don’t work out. But you know what? While this was understood cultural knowledge, it took a researcher to make it legitimate. Indiana University fitness expert Antonio Williams said:
One of the top reasons given by black women of all income levels involves style and hair care. He said black women, particularly college-age women and women with corporate jobs, often sacrifice their health for stylish and often expensive hairdos. Fears of “sweating out” the hairstyle make lunchtime workouts unlikely and keep the women from the gym or other physical activities. Williams, a fitness consultant and lecturer in IU’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, specializes in fitness marketing and perception. “For years I’ve heard, ‘I can’t schedule a personal training session now, I just got my hair done,’” he said. “These women are risking their health for style.”
Make fun of us all you want—hairstyling is EXPENSIVE (see this column). We cannot just wash our hair with some Tres Semme, towel dry it and put it in a wet ponytail. It takes more time and trying to do all that we must do 4 days a week? It just doesn’t seem worth it.
But that still doesn’t quite get to the bicycle question. Well, take the sweating one’s hair out and add that to the fact that riding with a breeze going through your hair and feeling connected to Mother Nature just doesn’t seem to be on the BF priority list. With limited access to technology and stuffs (including automobiles) for longer periods of time than our white counterparts, it stands to reason that we would probably like to enjoy the new toys first before returning “back to nature.” This also includes community gardening, farmer’s markets, cloth diapers, and homemade baby food (Diane Keaton in Baby Boom is not our role model, peoples. You can go on and make your own applesauce. I’ll trust Gerber’s.). Let’s also be honest: black folks and other people of color are always thought of as “close to the land.” We’re practically anthropomorphized nature to some white people. whereas they have to return back to Walden and live life out in the middle of nowhere lying by a pond, we are imbued with nature. While this is simply untrue, I do think it shapes the end result, which for BF may be a backlash to nature. Why ride a bicycle when you can sit down comfortably without risk to one’s hair or nether parts, turn on the a/c and drive down the street? No, no, return to nature to this BW sounds alot like a return to simpler times. Well, simpler times for black folk usually entails slavery or Jim Crow so I don’t long for those days of yore.