I'm meeting my wife at a bar on Milwaukee one evening. I park, lock the Prius and start to walk to the venue. It occurs to me that after a cyclist accidentally knocked my driver's side mirror off, that I forgot to push it in (a habit I have solidified since that accident.)
I turn and see a bearded white guy on a bike riding down the street smashing every side view mirror he can. Just as he almost gets to my car, I bark out "What the fuck are you doing?!" and it startles him enough that he misses my car and the one in front but completely rips the mirror off of an SUV the next spot down.
So I chase him, hurling curses his way. But he is on a bike and I run like a fat cop.
That was about a year ago and, to this day, I view any white cyclist dude with a beard with bias. I know intellectually that that is stupid but the scrutiny is the same regardless. I'm not suspicious of all cyclists just the skinny, white hipster guys with no helmets and that unnecessarily long-ass beard.
This week, as I was parking, another of this same guy was in my side view as I was parking. He was a full half block from me. I got out of the car, waited for him to pass so I could open the back door and grab my bag and he nearly clips me. He screeches to a halt and starts yelling that I almost knocked him off his bike. It almost became a physical confrontation but it didn't.
And my bias was reinforced. Skinny, white hipster. Beard. No helmet. Bike. ASSHOLE.
That's how it goes, yes? Bias become prejudice and prejudice becomes bigotry. It's such an easy path to follow, it's almost an autonomic response.
How do I combat this bizarre anti-bearded white guy on a bicycle bigotry? The obvious answer is to go out and find skinny bearded white guys who ride bikes in the city and get to know them. The only way to dispel my bias is to demonstrate the fallacy of it. How many non-asshole white bearded dudes on ten-speeds do I need to get to know before the prejudice begins to transform and melt away like a bad crush or an unsavory habit?
Knowing that as a human-type, the negative experiences tend to far outweigh the positive ones, is ten cool scruffy bicyclists per each asshole enough? Will that deconstruct my understandable but wholly unreasonable bigotry?
Also, my dad hates the Swedes.
Dad is German (he's my stepfather but aside from the German/Irish difference, you'd be hard-pressed to notice he and I aren't blood relatives) and he grew up in a Kansas town populated mostly by Swedish people. The German segment of the town's populous was the poor segment. Most businesses were Swedish-owned and operated. My dad grew up resenting that and, to this day, has an understandable but unreasonable bigotry against 'the Swedes.'
What could he do to adjust that bias? How many Swedish people would he need to hang out with and befriend before the weight of it changed his worldview?
This is the question of our times. I certainly don't have the answers but the world is smaller than it used to be and there's less room to silo ourselves off into tribes of isolated and outraged neighbors. I mean, there are simply too many skinny, bearded hipsters on bikes in my neighborhood to avoid, right?