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Jeremy Dowsett and White Privilege

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In “What My Bike Has Taught Me about White Privilege”, Jeremy Dowsett argues that “white privilege” is not about questioning the morality of whites, but it’s about a “systematic imbalance” created by unintentional racism, and a misunderstanding of what “white privilege” means. He uses his own personal experiences of being a biker in a non-bike friendly town, to convey to his audience that white privilege has arisen because of historic racism, and he uses examples such as an unknowing semi driver that “rushes past throwing gravel in my face” (Dowsett 987), and regular drivers that “fly by just inches from me” (Dowsett 986), to push the point that white privilege is more about showing that “the system is not neutral” (Dowsett 987). To support his claim of a “systematic imbalance” Dowsett explains that If a biker gets into a crash with a car, the effects of the accident would be much worse for the biker, than the driver. This is a relatively new problem, because bike lanes are also a relatively new idea, just being created around a “car-centric” society. To clarify his idea that “white privilege is not about questioning the morality of whites, Dowsett goes on to say that he doesn’t want this to come off as if he is saying ‘if you are white, you’re a bad person’, he just wants people to realize that “…being mindful of me is a privilege he has that I don’t” (Dowsett 987), accentuating how bikers have to be hyper aware of their surroundings, unlike cars. This view of car drivers being disrespectful to bike drivers, whether purposefully or not, leads Dowsett to remind those people who misunderstand “white privilege” that “a person of color might be experiencing you, the way a person on a bike experiences being passed by a semi…” (Dowsett 988). That finishing statement is to clarify the idea that though you may not purposefully be acting out of white privilege, people should step to the side to analyze their actions before doing them, even if they were not done to harm another, or with racist intent.

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As stated earlier, Dowsett’s purpose in writing this is to educate those who do not understand “white privilege”, through a bike riding analogy that may make sense to them. Dowsett wants to explain that “white privilege” is perhaps a phrase that gets a negative connotation because it may sound like he is saying “You are a racist and there’s nothing you can do about it because you were born that way” (Dowsett 984), but he wants to work off the idea that it is all based on a misunderstanding of privilege, not an inherent hate towards a race. Using personal experiences from the road, as a biker, he is able to get his purpose across, and portray people who drive cars as privileged due to the way “The system is skewed in ways that maybe you haven’t realized or had to think about precisely because its skewed in your favor” (Dowsett 985).

In relation to his focus of purpose in the essay, the audience plays a big role in how he approaches the way he defines that purpose. When writing, he is obviously addressing whites who do not have an understanding of “white privilege”, which is why he uses examples with cars, because cars are a privilege that most white people living in urban areas have access to, and he needed to find something to create an analogy that would be understood by most people. Dowsett really tries to speak on the side of caution and intelligent examples to back up his claims, because many people can get uncomfortable with the argument, because “nobody wants to be a racist” (Dowsett 984). But, due to the fact that he is speaking to whites that are misunderstanding their privilege, he needs to make bold claims with strong examples to back himself up, making for a good essay that really does point out the discrepancies in our society, and makes a strong argument about “white privilege”.

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