On June 8th, 2017 an immigrant cyclist of color was punched in the face by an aggressive pedestrian last week, knocked from his bike, and left in the street. His skull cracked and as of today he remains in a coma. Medically induced. The man who attacked him and left him in the street with a fractured skull was also a person of color.
I have not seen it mentioned, but I personally believe that this attack was not without some racial motivation. People of color are not all united just because they are all collectively “not white.” Some who are closer to whiteness in color or preferential treatment by white society conscientiously separate themselves from black and brown-skinned minorities, and perpetuate the same negativity and discrimination they would receive if they weren’t the lucky token or so-called “model minority.” Some of those black and brown people who are “native” to America (this is the only culture that they are able trace an ancestry to) look down upon or resent the opportunities of the recent immigrant or refugee, just like some of their white American peers.
Almost all persons of an ethnic minority in America are intimately aware that in matters of conflict – from an encounter that involves the police to those as minor as bumping into someone on the street – that part of the severity of the offended person’s reaction may be determined by their inner beliefs and attitudes about the person they are about to correct.
The shock of an accidental bump that could be resolved with a simple “I’m sorry” could go over completely innocuously when it occurs between two people of a similar ethnic background, one that the other fears, or (is made to) respects… OR it could elicit a rude or disproportionately hostile and violent reaction from someone who holds negative value judgments (or judgments of no value) about the person who made an commonplace error.
I cannot say for certain why the young man who punched out Domingo Diego-Tapia as he cycled by June 8 did so. But I know human beings, bicycling, race, and the subtly of power dynamics. I know the sneers and snickers and disregard for a stereotypical a “Mexican on a bike.” I know that aggressive people are more likely to attack someone who they believe are powerless or will not react.
I do not believe the yet-to-found attacker would have attacked someone who he saw as his equal – In age. In ethnicity. In perceived physical ability. In assumed status. And I know that hate crimes do not always come with a racial slur. And it is not just black and brown versus white…
I could not have predicted this occurrence, but it is this type of disconnect in the ability to see oneself in others that motivates me to bring black and brown cyclists together. There is NO reason a black or brown (fair-skinned Asians included) cyclist who rides their bike by choice, should look down or disassociate themselves from those black and brown cyclists who cycle because they have to, when in fact we are all a sucker punch, a police stop, or change of financial fortune away from being just like the other.
I’m so sorry, and my heart goes out to Mr. Diego-Tapia’s family – a wife and two children – who were not able to celebrate, only grieve, their love for him on Father’s Day.
Tonight (6/20), a vigil is being held for this victim of anti-cyclist and quite possibly racial aggression at the spot where he was fallen. The corner of Fulton & Albany Avenue in Brooklyn 8:30pm. I will be there in solidarity with his family, the Brooklyn Borough President, and other cyclists. And I hope that you too, cyclists of color. especially, will make an appearance to be there for those who need you. Because the times show us, everyday in every way that we need each other.
See the New York Post article and camera footage of the attacker: http://nypost.com/2017/06/16/this-coward-sucker-punched-a-cyclist-into-a-coma/