naked racism



[ellie blue sent the link to this on the portland SHIFT list. it gets more lucid after the flamey elements get dispensed with.. dick gregory used to do the same thing, tell increasingly gross and blasphemous jokes until the christian fbi agents had to walk out, then get down to business. ridwan is ruder than shit, but he elicits some beautifully sharp arguments for nude biking]


Fatima & Ahmed's son Ridwan Laher

This blog began as a cover of my 2006 appointment as the Nelson Mandela Chair and Professor of African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. It grew to include reflections on my search for origins in India and Malaysia. Here you will find me thinking aloud about my folks, my blackness, my life in South Africa and the US, my dawgs, my dogs, race and racism, politics, and motorcycles.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pedal Voyeurism

Portland is a white dominated bicycle-friendly town. It is also said to house the most strip clubs per square inch in the US. So what do you get when you put these three things together?

Umm ... well a whole grip of YTs who get naked at the stroke of midnight and ride their bikes through the streets of PissVille. This need to peel-off is said to be a political statement about dependence on gas. I am assuming they mean oil.

OK. So pray do tell why is it necessary to strip to protest petrol-imperialism? Also tell me this: What the hell is it with some white people and public nakedness? Freedom? From what? And mostly, from whom? Where is the substance in this kind of politics, or rather posturing?

Ain't it ironic that the historical white imagination constructs the savage as a naked or nearly naked Other and then SNAP ... white folks strip their asses at a drop of a hat. And some do so, as is the case here, claiming that it is a form of self-expression. Huh? Expressing what? A need to rebel against wearing your damn clothes as a form of collective individuality?

(Pictured above is a French print entitled "La Belle Hottentot" ... see Saartjie Baartman for context.)

I'm not buying this nonsense. So stop playing caucasia ... this sh*t is not political struggle. And it ain't art or about your first amendment rights. At best it is a "Girls gone Wild" mentality that is tiresome and intrinsically white.

If you don't believe me count the Black asses in the pictures. No really, do a Google search for more pictures and start counting! Or better yet click here to see a video of naked asses riding their stuff on a street in Portland.


See any Black asses? Nuttin', nada, niks, huh? The reason: Our politics is not a matter of personal choice brewed over coffee and bicycle shorts. This sh*t is prankster politics and voyeuristic buffoonery so typical of Portland.

So please do us all a favour and cover your self-absorbed and rain-soaked asses ... for real. Geez, sometimes I just hate Portland and at other times I hate it even more.



Posted by Ridwan at 11:29 PM    







Anonymous said...

ain't ain't a word! show up and get naked next time.


10:47 AM  

gabrielamadeus said...

You make a lot of good points about Portland's race issues. That said, I think many people do this ride for a wide variety of reasons. I was one of the crazy YT's and I did it because it is a blast to ride around downtown with hundreds of naked people. I assume I am not the only one with this mindset because everyone on the ride and 90% of the people we rode by were laughing and cheering us on. If it's not your idea of a good time fine, but it sure made my weekend!

As for the lack of variation in ass color, for the record, I ended up riding naked and later hanging out in a hot tub with 20 awesome people - including 2 black dudes.


10:56 AM  

Anonymous said...

"I just hate Portland and at other times I hate it even more" -Fatima & Ahmed's son Ridwan Laher

Its good to see tolerance and free speech is still alive and well. You keep spewing you're hate via the world wide web and I'll keep riding my bike naked.


11:37 AM  

knappster said...

You might have valid observations about the Portland counterculture; it might be tainted with narcissism.  However, your argument is obscured by your obsession with skin pigment.


11:42 AM  

Anonymous said...

"There is only one race, the human race."

Wow,... truly shocking that one with this Sobukwe quote topping their blog would waste so much time trumping up the skin-deep appearance of people with whom he doesn't seem to want to discuss anything!

I'm sure you understand that part of any political action is getting that work recognized by others so that you may continue building communities to support your end. Free publicity is garnered how...? This is just one of the possibilities that doesn't end in jail or fines.

I will grant that some of the participants (admittedly) viewed the ride primarily as a fun time, but this is one rider who is using the topic of a first ever naked bike ride as a speaking point in my ongoing advocacy of cycling as a primary form of transportation as well as an awesome way to take what little I can back from the big oil interests that think they run my little corner of the world.

What better way to answer the shocked questions of people I speak with about why I rode naked? I did it to tell you that our dependency on oil is doing much more harm than good for all of our future generations! GET A BIKE! (and by "bike" I mean bicycle not motorcycle) and RIDE IT!


12:38 PM  

Ridwan said...

Thanks for the responses above. Geez who would know this to be such a hot topic.

"There is just one human race" and Sobukwe made that statement at a time when most white people believed Blacks to be less than human.

In a sense he was pressing against the self-centeredness that whiteness represents. And that is exactly what I am pressing here.

I have had many conversations with white 'counter-culture' in PDX. Why do you assume this is a one-way monologue?

What I know is that people of color are made invisible in these kind of 'movements'. Mostly because white folks rarely recognize that their skin color is a politics ... one that has a history that cannot be denied.

Make no mistake though, I share your concern about petrol-imperialism.

What I don't share is your naive belief that showing your ass on a bicycle is a form of political struggle or coalition building for that matter.

Folks in Irag and Afghanistan are dying in a war on innocents that is all about petrol-imperialism.

What does your naked ass have to do with that struggle. Or should I jut assume that you are acting locally and not really connecting globally?

Real systemic change is going to need more than bare bums on bicycles.

The issue of dominance and oil is about racism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, whiteness. It is also more complex than choosing a 'safe' strategy to get your neighbours talking.

Militant resistance not passive posturing is what is needed. What kind of revolutionary ends a militant bike ride for justice by relaxing in a hot tub with 20 other dudes ... 2 of whom are Black?

So before you go preaching about who should ride and what kinda bike, maybe you should make your strategy more than just your bike, your ass, and gas.

By the way, is there an alternative to those rubber tyres on your 'bike' ... what about lubing your chain, etc,? Just curious as to how far you are willing to protest.

Peace and real struggle,



1:15 PM  

Svejk said...

You say, "Geez who would know this to be such a hot topic."

How can you expect otherwise, when you go smash-mouth on us: "stop playing caucasia ... this sh*t is not political struggle. And it ain't art or about your first amendment rights. At best it is a "Girls gone Wild" mentality that is tiresome and intrinsically white."

The picture you got from a 30 second human interest story on TV... wasn't an accurate one. If you're angry about the network news' shallow vapidity, why vent at Portland's bike community?


I spent 5 hours helping prep a building for the pre-ride party. Other folks I know spent 40 or 50 hours. The fun that the people at the party (many of them at their first Shift2Bikes event) and the ride had was worth it to me. They'll be back for other more-political events. The publicity the ride got was icing on the cake. Hundreds of bicyclists had a good time puncturing the mainstream media meme that the cycling community is all about anger and anti-automobile-ism.

Quit ridng my impoverished white ass about how my pasty pale hands are indelibly stained with the blood of racist, colonialist oppression. We haven't disregarded your constructive suggestions about outreach to minority communities to encourage their participation... because you haven't made any.

Do you think it would be a good idea to start programs at a community cycling center to build/repair hundreds of bikes and give them away to low-income adults and children, along with helmets, locks and lights?

That's a brilliant idea! Thanks!

Do you think that making it possible for low-income families to stop spending $8000 a year on an automobile would be helpful to the "real struggle" low-income families face?


5:35 PM  

Dione said...

Hey everyone,

Lets not forget about the second half to the First Amendment; The Bill of Rights &emdash; U know, that favorite one by us Americans in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution!! freedom of speech!

We all read Ridwan's blog because we appreciate the interesting things he has to say.

Let us all think for a moment; what would have happened if this bike ride was mostly done by African Americans in this community. This event would have had national headlines, police, tazers, tear gas u name it! Ridwan points out what is an observation. That many times Portland misses the real issues. Riding around naked will not bring our troops home from Iraq.

I am in favor of the idea of fixing up bicycles for people in need, and it is always a good thing to be environmental; I just happen to not be very good at it- just a thought.....


10:01 PM  

Ridwan said...

Svejk you are exactly the dumbass racist YT I had in mind when I wrote my blog piece.

Thanks for making an appearance here.

I recognized your stab-Black-folk-in-the-ass attitude immediately.

I also noted with no surprise that you wank and vent all kind of sh*t about white agency while remaining mostly anonymous.

But true to form, you miss the gest of my critique. PDX obviously allows you the distance from people of color who will call you and yours on your crap.

So you remain delusional about your contributions and its relationship to real anti-imperial struggle.

Perhaps you should read slower. Or maybe we can get together so I can tell you in person what I think about your commentary above.

And I am not threatening violence.

We have enough of that over in Irag and Afghanistan ... but that has got nothing to do with you because you bike and are poor ... I know I know ... damn shame anyway huh?

It is so typical that you delink your white privilege because you think of yourself as "impoverished."

This is not about your checking account. It is more complex that your individual presence.

What would you call all those folks who are dying in the US war on innocents? Are they impoverished? Is it racism?

Or are these not matters close to your oblivious naked-bike-riding ass?

Get real. You are not mpoverished! You are a white and endowed with all the sh*t your ancestors stole and established through racism.

So why are you poor? A personal choice for the time being until you grow-up and join your relatives standing on the back of the dominated?

What you been doing for a few centuries now? All that white privilege and structural racism still kept you poor huh .... why?

You should be concerned that you are underperforming in a system rigged to keep you empowered and dominant?

Start accumulating your inheritance ... it is clear that you have the racist attitude to do so in place already.

So stop playing in the traffic and get yours before the pie is not yours anymore.

I wrote my post because I know your disease and its pretensions.

Not cause I'm a hater or "angry" or any other f**king label you want to attach.

I'm calling you and yours on your self-involved sh*t. See it for what it is or go on with your crap.

But before I roll let me just let you in on a little secret though: most Black folk know you and hate your duplicitous ass. That is why we don't join your causes.

This is especially true when you make a fool of yourself by letting your "pasty ass" hang out.

And no, I did not get my analysis from TV ... I got it battling folk like you. And I am still standing.

I know none of this will mean a damn thing to you ... but now you know that we know your limitations.

Thanks for showcasing the racism we know well.

Keep cycling nonetheless, just keep your "pasty ass" and its wanna-be politics to yourself.



10:11 PM  

dapper said...

Hey, Ridwan! How 'bout some solutions? What's there to do? Without something constructive, this post won't do much: it'll just feed on its own negativity and leave bad tastes in everyone's mouths.

So: how should it be done better? Not at all? Something different?


2:08 AM  

Da' Square Wheelman, said...


Loved the post although I didn't agree with everything.

I've found that bike folks, esp. in the more bike friendly cities, are famously aggressive in criticizing kager kultur but also rather overly sensitive when criticized. And that's what you experienced here ...

However, I feel that both you and those who reacted miss an important point. The WNBR as well as Critical Mass have less to do with militant activism. Both are direct descendants of the French Situationists.

In a world as f*d as ours sometimes the most effective protest is to simply have fun, the most humane form of social criticism %)


6:27 AM  

Lost Balloons said...

I don't understand what you think the cyclists should be doing instead of riding their bikes. Are you mad because they aren't serious enough, or that they are having fun that other people can't have, or is there a problem you have with their politics (I don't know them or whether their politics are all the same), or something else? It's pretty clear that you don't like looking at their asses, but is there something more? Are you mad at them when they ride with clothes on too?


6:46 AM  

Joshua said...

I was naked 3 for 3 nights this weekend on a bike. The official event Saturday was actually the least fun of the three because it was the least spontaneous. I like to get naked, I like to be naked, I like to ride bikes, and I like to ride my bike naked. That's all there it so it.

None of that has to do with anything intellectual. I do not consider the political, the historical, the cultural, or the racial ramifications of getting and being naked. It feels good and makes me happy and I like it so I do it.

If you don't that's fine, but don't oppress what I feel with what you think. It's like trying to intellectualize love -- quit thinking about it and just feel it. It doesn't hurt anyone and you're only cheating yourself.

Have a naked day,



11:00 AM  

Ridwan said...

Dapper thanks for your post. I intended my post to prod and not to offer solutions.

I am at one level offended by the casualness of the naked-bike ride in PDX. I know it was done in other cities outside of the US as well.

But knowing PDX I saw what I have become accustomed to here. White folk fixated on narrow selfish needs (fun being one of them) while pretending the ride was a progressive, inclusive, even radical to some, statement against gas dependency.

If I was to offer solutions I would start with the white mindset that creates and advances such delusional 'moments'.

I would also look to working on the race sensitivities and racism that excludes being critiqued from outside.

In this sense it would be useful to go beyond expecting folk of color to 'perform' in support of 'movements' and causes that deploy erasure of their past and present conditions.

I am disgusted at the notion that struggle movements should seek to'create fun' for its participants.

Oppression is not fun and that is why the bike-ride was a white thing. Oppression is real and having fun around its consequences is uniquely a white fixation that reduces the seriousness of protesting oil dependency and its linkages.

Also, the fun factor further dehumanizes the oppressed.

I don't know any Indian/Black/brown folk who see it necessary, for what ever reason, to strip their asses for the causes we are forced to wage.

Therefore, I don't see my post as negative.

Change must come from inside. People of color should not be expected or forced to perform ancillary functions for whiteness.

This includes saying nothing when whites act the fool for purposes of feigned consciousness.

I expect that solutions must, therefore, begin with acknowledging the content of my critique (which is not solely my own of course).

So, whites in general, and the PDX biking community specifically, would do well to 'undress' their racism (not their asses), and thereby, interrogate their purposefully race-neutered protests.

This is important because oil dependency has a long history that cannot simply be seperated from racism, colonialism,

neo-colonialism, US imperialism and its war(s).

Stripping your ass is just a crass undermining of the seriousness and determination that struggle against the petrol-empire must advance.

In this sense I cannot agree with the humaneness of this naked-ride as my friend in Chicago, da' sqare wheel man, points out.

I am not alone in this judgement. Count the Black asses!

We should all recognize the genocidal mania that petrol-imperialism represents.

Such a recognition would be more involved than just a critique of Bush or the Iraq and Afghanistan situation. Look at what Shell (a Dutch company) did in the northern areas of Nigeria, for example.

Also, see what Caltex/Amoco/Chevron and the US did for almost 20 years in Angola.

Lost Balloons I think I have answered your query: I am not

anti-bicycle user. That is not the point of my post.

I am though still seeking an answer on the casual connection between naked asses, bicycles, and protest.

If da' square wheel man is right about its origins and motivation, then I'm even more incensed.

Nontheless, thanks to you three for adding to the discussion.

Peace and struggle,



11:52 AM  

Anonymous said...


"Portland is a white dominated bicycle-friendly town. It is also said

to house the most strip clubs per square inch in the US. So what do

you get when you put these three things together?"

" At best it is a "Girls Gone Wild" mentality that is tiresome and

intrinsically white."

As a "non-white" skinned OTHER, I feel ashamed that someone can

misconstrue what it means to be on a WNBR. I get all the fun and

community and activism part of it mentioned by other responders, but I

feel that in addition, I need to make known the serious objections to

the true slant of the article.

First of all, I would like to point out the fallacies in the arguments

posted by the blogger. The inherent transactions in a strip-club and

WNBR are fundamentally different. In a strip-club you have to pay

money and the people who are naked are necessarily young. In WNBR, not

only is there no money involved, but you had a whole diversity of

people taking part in the ride: young and old, black, pink, white,

yellow, brown. In one it is in a room with no windows, and in WNBR we

were out in the open.

And to refer to it as a "Girls Gone Wild" mentality is incorrect as

well. First of all the sex of the participants was not just solely

young female, and the flashing was not momentary: the ride lasted for

an hour! I personally know of homosexual people who were on the ride,

and so I fail to see it as being mainstream immature and heterosexual.

And as Mahatma Gandhi said, "I may fight the British ruler, but I do

not hate the English or their language. In fact, I appreciate their

literary treasures." There is a distinction to be made between hating

the "American government", and hating the American "people". I would

like to remind people, America (government) may have 150,000 troops in

Iraq, but India (government) also has more than 200,000 troops in


There is a reason, why most of the people on the ride were

predominantly "white: as Miles points out they have to do with

culture. The blogger should be wondering if any of the 15,000 African

refugees in Portland were on the ride.

The blogger must also point out that in certain parts of India, the

women from the "lowered" castes were forced to go topless as a form of

respect, by the so-called higher castes. And to go to other end of the

spectrum, the "veil" is not Islamic per se: in fact it is something

common in all Mediterranean cultures. Read "The Republic of Cousins:

Women's Oppression in Mediterranean Society" by Germaine Tillion, and

you will shocked to know that in ancient Rome, women wore veils, and

followed their husbands. Why am I telling you this: because the

blogger mentions that the "white man" in the 19th century had equated

"nudity" with "savagery", and it needs to be mentioned that other

people have done the same as well.

And to Portland being "white dominated ". Just because "whites" are

demographically numerous does not mean that they are imposing their

will like in erstwhile South Africa. Ride the Trimet, and tell me who

drives the bus/train. Go to an office at Intel and tell me who works

there. And if you are thinking of the bigger picture, does India treat

Bangladeshis better than America treats Mexicans?

I have never been made to made to feel like an "other" on any

Pedalpalooza ride. No one's refused me coffee during Breakfast on

Bridges. There are inter-ethnic couples in the city. Clearly as

Portstanis, we do not discriminate on skin-colour, and my anecdotal

evidence corroborates what we see daily.

And to calling Portland "bicycle friendly" is quibbling, does Portland

spend 25% of its transportation revenue on bikes: no, we have to fight

for every $100,000 with the powers that be. I would deem it

"friendly", when it fits Bogota's former-mayor Enrique Peñalosa'

definition: when an 8 year old can ride their bikes around town

without fearing a loss of life and limb. Today, we all risk our lives

when we ride, and that is unfortunately a discrimination all of us

cyclists face equally irrespective of our skin tones.

The author forgets to mention that most car-drivers in India think of

cyclists and rickshaws as pests slowing down the traffic. Does the

blogger yearn for the introduction of geared-rickshaws to save the

drudgery of the hungry rickshaw-wallahs? Perhaps he should wonder why

in a land with so many cycles, people are not celebrating its

existence? Does he mention the death of forcibly displaced innocent

villagers to set up a car factory in Singur in India?

He should not denigrate the positive aspects of a society from afar.

He should be happy about the existence of an oasis of a proud defiant

celebratory bicycle culture in America, where there are are 800 cars

per 1000 people.

The West may have exploited their colonies for their natural

resources, but has that exploitation stopped once the "native" is in

power? Does a company in China adhere to stricter environmental

standards because it is not run by "whites"? We do not have to go far

to uncover this: does an "alien" in this country not buy an SUV. What

is the knee-jerk reaction of most Taiwanese or South Korean or Indian

or Peruvian people when they get a nice job after college: buy a new

automobile, whether it be in their homeland or in America.

This is the complain I have with blogs, as opposed to books: they tend

not to be holistic and do not look at the complete picture.

Of course if you truly look into the semantics of it, having a bicycle

makes one auto-mobile and have a sports and a utility vehicle.


2:02 PM  

Ridwan said...

Joshua thanks for making it real like you want it hey. At least you are not pretending beyond your need/desire to be naked on a bike ... and for the "fun" of it too. Knock yourself out bro.


Thanks for the support man ... you make me look good ... and with my clothes on too!

Can't say the same for the other naked-bikers who thought they were protesting gas dependence.

I don't really know what to say about the long-ass commentary by the "non-white" observer above.

First, you should know I never use agent derived terms like "non-white" ...

Also, why not give my blog a read before making hasty assumptions about what is being said. And by whom. And where.

Please do that before you waste space here.

Last time I read my post "Pedal Voyeurism" there was nothing in it about India, Bangladesh or the other twisted crap you raise.

What is up with your hang-ups and India? And what the hell do you want me to say/do about rickshaws?

I'm gonna leave caste issues aside because you obviously don't know what the hell the point is you are making.

If you looked further than your "double-consciousness" white ass-kissing mentality you would know I'm right here in PDX.

I can't also understand why you think my blog, or any other blog, should read like a book.

You want a book ... read one and stay off here.

I'm amused that you don't feel like a non-existent Other around your naked-bikers. But given that your commentary is mostly nonsense, well crap is closer, I am not about to attach credibility to your 'testimony' for those YTs.

Good luck with acting like your ass is white. You will never be and you will find that out for sure.



4:10 PM  

Anonymous said...

people(any color)+ Bikes + Naked = much attention/FUN. Attention/FUN can bring awareness. IT IS A GOOD THING TO GET PEOPLE TO RIDE BIKES! so be it!~!


1:58 AM  

Ridwan said...

Whites used to get dressed-up and attend the lynchings of Black folk for fun. Remember?

Lynchings would be held on a Sunday and families (kids included) would even pose to have their pictures taken with the lynched bodies of Blacks.

The even produced postcards that captured this family 'fun'.

"Yippee! How cool is that dude?"

The history of fun in the white imagination obviously has a long and tortuous history.

What is consistent is that most white people just can't step outside of whiteness.

The fact that fun should not be equated with principled struggle is hard to fathom inside of whiteness.

Afterall, the world revolves around whiteness ... everything else is just not normal.

Whiteness is such an impressed 'normalcy' that my critique hardly even scratches the "awareness" that is feigned.

The naked-bike-ride is just one contemporary example of many other white delusionary moments.

Saving Africa from AIDS/DEBT and Africans is a favourite of mine.

And the 'prophets' of white ascendancy, Geldof and Bono, exemplify the reach of this particular delusionary moment.

"Let's throw a concert to save Africa. Yippeeeeeee ... sounds like fun!!!! Can we get naked too?"

Onward because we are still very much oppressed!



11:28 AM  

Anonymous said...

"This blog began as a cover of my 2006 appointment as the Nelson Mandela Chair and Professor of African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. "

INDIA: that is where it comes from in the reply.

"I don't know any Indian/Black/brown folk who see it necessary, for what ever reason, to strip their asses for the causes we are forced to wage."

Do you know about the one of the greatest atheist philosophers on earth from INDIA:


one of the tirthankars of Jainism

He was "brown" and Indian, and naked to boot.

For your kind information.


11:14 AM  

Ridwan said...

Thank you for telling me about Mahavir.

In the context of the post, and its relationship to Portland (Oregon), Indian refers to the Native people of this land.

But I do understand that my blog traverses a lot of terrain as indicated by my header.

Nevertheless, my intent was to signal that aboriginal folks (Indians), Black and brown (Latino and others), hardly find it necessary to strip naked to protest struggle issues in Portland (or the US for that matter).

So, thanks for your input. I will look to learn more about Mahavir.




"There is only one race, the human race."

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe (1924-1978)


About Me


I know a little more now.


Me in Cape Town

"Gonna Ride Like The Wind before I get old"

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A Farewell to JNU

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Hit the Net like a Negro

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Man Its Hot Lah

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