Culture

MTB racer Eliot Jackson addresses racial bias in cycling

'If you can’t see race then you can’t see the racism that comes along with it,' says MTB pro Eliot Jackson.

Eliot Jackson, a professional downhill racer on the Giant mountain-bike team, went on social media to address the racial bias that he has seen within the cycling community in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police department.

“In the cycling community it’s been frustrating because everyone — brands, athletes — they build this image and this identity around being culturally inclusive, but as soon as something comes up… it becomes too difficult to manage,” Jackson said in a video posted to his Instagram page. “It’s like ‘I have to wait because I don’t want to offend anyone.'”

In the past week Jackson and other African American cyclists have voiced their opinions online and in interviews about both overt and subversive racial bias that they see in cycling. In an interview on velonews.com Rahsaan Bahati said his early experience in the U.S. pro road scene “was like being in a predominantly white fraternity.” Retired NBA player and passionate cyclist Reggie Miller went on the PYSO podcast to discuss the intersection of race and professional sports, among other topics.

Jackson framed his video as a way to educate cycling fans and those in the cycling community about how adopting certain mindsets around race and culture are offensive to African Americans.

“When people say, ‘I don’t see color,’ or ‘you’re all just human to me — all lives matter,’ it’s saying that your experiences are the same thing as mine… and in that case [my] different experiences don’t matter,” Jackson said. “If you can’t see race then you can’t see the racism that comes along with it.”

Jackson said that cyclists, brands, and fans can address the underlying racism in cycling by recognizing their own inherent bias, and by listening to and valuing the opinions of African Americans. They can also show compassion to African Americans and respect their opinions surrounding current events.

“If you’re saying we’re inclusive but at the same time you’re saying that racism doesn’t exist in cycling, then how do you know?” Jackson said. ” Just because you haven’t experienced it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”