On a sunny day, in lower Manhattan, we heard the cries of a man who appeared in anguish.
It came from behind us, rolling down Broadway like scattering thunder – a shout, a cry, a bellowing need for attention.
My wife and I, among the shoppers, gawkers and tourists around us, did what was required. We turned to the commotion, and saw a speeding, young black man on a bike, gliding gleefully, with his hands in the air.
“What, you’ve never seen a black man on a two thousand dollar bike???”
He said this over and over.
The response provoked this column, as it provoked nothing more than a collective shrug from the witnessing masses.
None of us cared.
And so, because there are stoplights that keep us in contact with our fellow mover–we would hear him again–shouting the same thing to anyone who had ears.
“Yes – this is a black man on a two thousand dollar bike!!”
My wife and I stared at him, and returned to casual conversation over a table she wanted to buy, and a drink I wanted to have.
Then I started thinking of a show I used to watch in England, when I lived there back in 2005. It was called “Little Britain,” a surreal and brutal skit show that took fewer prisoners than Gitmo.
The man on the bike reminded me of one skit, in particular.
It was loosely called “the only gay in the village,” and it was about Daffyd Thomas, who claims to be, well, the only gay in his village….despite a plethora of gays around him, even in the pub that he haunts on a nightly basis.
When he meets another gay, he gets angry – for it threatens his status as an aggrieved minority group. He acts out against all gays, despite his own outspoken hyper-dramatic sexual identity. He’s disgusted by lesbians marrying, but also upset when anyone isn’t openly homophobic toward him. He wants you to hate him, for being him.
Like the man on the bike, he was especially cross that no one gave a damn about his affiliations. His identity meant more than his industry.
When a “Gay Night” is planned at the local pub, and gays came in droves, a flustered Daffyd chased them out. The acceptance of openly gay people sapped him of his identity–his need for attention could not be sated any longer as him being “the exception.”
When he meets actual gay people, he doesn’t realize it – suggesting that he in fact, he may not be gay at all.
He’s just acting out–because in today’s world, it guarantees easy attention, sympathy, and friends. He’s pretending, just like Rachel Dolezal pretended she was black, when she ran the Spokane NAACP chapter.
It’s that drive, that Little Britain so aptly exposes, that often results in weird hoaxes and outright lies about identity.
The man on the bike is black, but no doubt he had to be miffed that no one cared about that–or that he was on a nice bike.
But Rachel Dolezal is white, and must be miffed that her fraudulent claim to be black matters to the world–black or white.
It’s not entirely her fault. For she has seen how the world now works: identity trumps occupation, nationality, and most of all, achievement.
The amazing thing: she seems to be a terrific artist. And that should be enough. But it wasn’t.
Like the man on the bike, and the only gay in the village – she invested way too much in “identity as status,” and in the end, that currency runs out, because everyone has so much of it.
You end up, as you are: you, alone.
We like or dislike you, based on your basic decency. Identity politics and divisive ideology has poisoned so many minds that we forget that we are all humans on this planet–and despite our past travesties, we do respond to the eternal values of compassion, generosity, hard work, and honesty.
Relying on one’s identity (real, chosen, or fabricated) only leads you to a more subtle form of isolation and misery. You realize that none of your relationships are real, because they are predicated on lies driven by insecurity.
And so, instead of enjoying a walk down a sunny street on a calm Sunday with someone you love, you find yourself on a bike, shouting at strangers–hoping they care as much as you do about your anachronistic grievances.
It’s time to ditch that bike. The tires are flat. And Rachel, you don’t need it.