Columbus World Naked Bike Ride

Four years ago I rode in Columbus’ first World Naked Bike Ride.  We started at the bike co-op.  Unlike later years Pedal Instead wasn’t there to valet our bikes, we didn’t have a real planned path, or too much planned anything. Having not felt comfortable being nude on High Street, I wore a bathing suit bottom and sports bra, and had body paint around my abdomen and back that was supposed to look like animal print.   It rained while we rode and was invigorating. I came home high on adrenaline.

This year, I’ve struggled with whether to go or not.  I talked to my friend and journalist Aaron Cynic who covered the Chicago World Naked Bike Ride last weekend.   I sought advice from him as he enjoyed the ride and kept a journalistic arms length distance.  I love the World Naked Bike Rides but here in Columbus they have become associated with a group  that I fear has encouraged gentrification with all the negative connotations.  A group that participates in both institutionalized and overt class warfare.

Here in Columbus the ride is starting and ending at the same site that held the paint yourself as an Indian with small pox and drink whiskey at a “thanksgiving” party a few years ago.  My objections to the party never gained apologies I was only ostracized as the dick who takes things too seriously.  These same people throw up their arms in protest in “a hey can’t we just have fun” argument?  Hells yeah we can have fun, but can we not do it at the cost of ousting a community or at least maybe have a discussion about it?  Trust me I want to ride in the streets in my swimsuit and enjoy the carnival attitude of it all, but I can’t do it when it is hosted by a group of people who are racists.  By racists I mean people who have done racist things, been called out on it, and continue to do it.

After much deliberation, I’ll reluctantly be bowing out from this year’s ride.  Maybe you all need a talk with Andrew Ti.

P.S. Still think your dress as an Indian, paint small pox on yourself, whiskey drinking party was all fun?   Why don’t you go tell my mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins that.

My Family

My Family


5 thoughts on “Columbus World Naked Bike Ride

  1. Hi Elena,

    I’m one of the hosts, actually, the original organizer of the World Naked Bike Ride here in Columbus. You know me, I spend a lot of time working in Mexico with people who look like your family, and as a white guy I am sure I’ve (unintentionally) done and said some racist things. But I like to think that I try pretty hard not to be a racist. While it seems clear that you your beef is with 400 over a party held there and possibly whether or not they are art scabs, I wanted to reply because I value your opinion.

    First, that party was fucking racist. I know. I went, not knowing that a “wild turkey” party meant a “let’s get all blackface on indians”. What you don’t make clear is that the WNBR didn’t organize it, and neither did 400. Venues get called out all the time when it’s the party organizers who are the rightful recipients of scorn. Right now, that looks like your main argument against attending WNBR. Far be it from me to say the WNBR is compulsory. It’s not.

    As for community discussion, I’ve engaged in so much of it online and in person. Ad nauseum. This is one of the things that annoys me about radical communities. We are our own worst enemy, turning minor differences in opinion about tactics and philosophy into major divides that preclude any real cooperation. No one seems to be able to agree to disagree, imagining that “real radicals” don’t compromise or even engage in productive dialogue. But in any case, oh my god the discussions. The WNBR is an explicitly radical event from the tradition of “don’t like something? change it!”

    That said, out of all the discussions about the appropriateness of 400 as a venue for the WNBR, during which I have argued that it is perfectly fine, no one has offered a viable alternative for hosting this event. Got a place we can have over 1,000 naked people hang out and safely prepare for an naked international bike protest without facing immediate summary arrest? Let me know.

    No seriously, let me know. We can’t have it at 400 next year because the event will be too large and we need a new space. Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good. If you want people to believe that really care about something, don’t just be a critic, get involved. There are plenty of other people who did, and we probably aren’t racist most of the time.

    • Brian,

      Above all, you are awesome. No, seriously, you are awesome.
      This wasn’t meant as a personal attack on you. Trust me, I know how
      to find you if I’ve got beef with you ;-)

      Also, this isn’t beef with World Naked Bike Ride. WNBR ROCKS! I
      love doing it. It gives me a natural high, a comradery to be among
      cyclists at night (in the rain!). It is awesome.

      My beef is with the location. Absolutely, with the location. I’ve tried
      to think of alternatives for example joining in later in the ride and
      leaving the ride before it returned. Honestly, however, that left me
      feeling very vulnerable. I don’t want to sit on a corner alone downtown
      in my bathing suit, waiting for people who don’t feel the racism as I do.
      Nor do I want to bike home alone. Nor do I want to miss out on the awesome dance party usually found at the conclusion of the ride.
      Nor, really do I think I should have to.

      Saying that 400 W Rich St didn’t host the racist party, they just let it
      happen is unacceptable. A bunch of people throw a let’s eat watermelon
      wear afros and drink malt liquor while smoking menthol’s party on Juneteenth in my house but I am not the host of it, is also wrong.

      You lovely sir, are the first and only person to ever attend that party and admit it was wrong. That takes a big person. You have no idea how much it helps to hear you say it. Thank you. I really appreciate it. (I’d hug you if you were here with me.) But,why do I want to go to a place or be around people that aren’t like you Brian?

      Today, I was asked to give my opinion on those active in the
      “Franklinton Arts District” and I said:

      They are super defensive, unhelpfully so. That doesn’t mean they have a malicious intent. It means they aren’t self aware. They are loving, well intentioned people, I believe they too would love a utopia of a strong community, local foods, and bike paths, things we all love.
      I just think they are unaware of the gentrification they encourage and the racism they have permitted. Yes, they may have good intentions but that doesn’t mean they are right.

      I wasn’t allowed as a child to watch a documentary about MLK Jr because
      it was produced by a soda company. I had to sit in the hallway while my classmates watched it. When I got home, my father had complied a list of eight books about the life of MLK Jr and then I was then made to write a report for my father on each book and about the role of the government in his life. It sucked. I wanted to watch the damn documentary with my friends. It sucks, I want to ride bikes and dance. But sometimes we have to consider who is providing what we consume and the impact we have on others. Trust me, god I wish I felt comfortable enough to ride with all of you.

  2. Salty balls Elena! Get over it. I didn’t plan or organize shit. Those were your friends. What a joke.

    • Chris, thanks for commenting. I understanding you wanting to disassociate yourself with something so reprehensible but wouldn’t it be best, since you manage the property to just say “I am sorry, that was wrong and should have never happened”. If my friends ask me if they can throw a dress as a negro, drink malt liquor party in my house and I let them—I have some fault.
      Furthermore, it makes it really hard to have a discussion about gentrification and institutionalized racism if I can’t even get people to admit wrong doing in their overt racism. How can I trust a real discussion about racism or any “-ism” that isn’t as blatant?

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