Posted on May 26, 2021

Cycling and the Power of White Privilege

P. Khalil Saucier, Bicycling, May 11, 2021

When George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others were killed by the police in 2020, forcing the nation into a racial reckoning, the cycling industry responded with promises to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Fuji announced it was suspending the sale of their bikes to police departments, while various other industry leaders committed themselves to increasing diversity in the sport of cycling.

Yet, looking at the actions of some cyclists at the top of the sport, along with their sponsors, I see how the system of privileges and advantages afforded to white people remains strongly rooted both inside and outside the sport of cycling.

It’s time for cycling to think beyond white fragility, white privilege, implicit bias, and microaggressions, and begin to think about its root cause. Cycling must reject interventions that continue to individualize anti-Black racism, and work to break down the structures that allow whiteness to retain power in the sport.

Anti-racist efforts within cycling must move beyond the trite euphemisms of inclusion, diversity, sensitivity, and allyship, and begin to seriously consider the dimensions of power at play. Yes, control of cycling resources are important, as are safe spaces to ride one’s bike, but the power of whiteness within cycling remains unsullied.

In late September, many in the sport turned a blind eye when it came to light that world-champion Chloe Dygert ‘liked’ several racist and transphobic tweets. One tweet said “white privilege doesn’t exist,” while another suggested that if football player Colin Kaepernick “realized that if he grew an afro and played the part of victim, he could scam the Black community out of millions.”


Dygert, who has since unliked the tweets, has faced no real consequences that we know of, so far. {snip}

Such public respect and civility toward Dygert, no doubt aspects of white privilege and power, allow her and her corporate sponsors a path to redemption, a means to restore or even reshape their image, build character and come out on top. {snip}

{snip} In November of last year, she posted a photo of herself on Instagram, resplendent in her USA time trial suit and Red Bull aero helmet, head down as if exhausted from a long, hard effort—although this time, the head down appears to signal embarrassment, not exertion. In the caption, Dygert wrote the following:

“Cycling should be for everyone regardless of color, gender, sexuality or background. Like CANYON//SRAM Racing, I am committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and equality in cycling and our wider communities. I apologize to those who I offended or hurt by my conduct on social media. I am committed to keep learning and growing as an athlete and a person.”


After those statements were released, Rapha emailed its own follow-up statement to its customers; it called out Dygert’s “very serious errors of judgment” and said that Dygert’s apology was not sufficient. On the surface, that statement appeased those who were disgusted with the world champion’s denial of white privilege.

However, if you frame Rapha’s statement within the context of the power and privilege of whiteness, you’ll see that it sets the tone for even greater redemption. Rapha, a global company that is conscious of its whiteness and unearned privilege, could be seen as trying to position itself as an ally. Yet, efforts at solidarity—working to be a good ally or destroying privilege—often become subtle quests to regain control over whiteness and thereby contain or incorporate the disruption to the brand. Their statement that Dygert’s actions were nothing more than a lapse in judgement opens up the channels for redemption.