The TrailRippers: Asking You To Stand Up To Hate

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A recent social media post by ‘TrailRippers’ highlighted the importance of standing up to hate speech. While the response from the mountain bike community has been overwhelmingly supportive on social media, it’s one thing to give words of support online, and quite another to stand up for something in the heat of the moment. Would you know what to do if you heard hate speech out on the trail?

Zero Racism Wales
Image Credit: Ashley Leung

It’s certainly easy to be caught out, taken by surprise, and say nothing. I recall being at an event where I heard a group of riders spouting some truly vitriolic anti trans hate speech. I had been waiting to interview the group in question, and on hearing their words I walked away – I didn’t want to give airtime to riders who were happy to use such terms. But, faced with the shock of the moment, a group vs me, and a desire to avoid confrontation, I didn’t call them out – I just walked away. That still eats me – I should have spoken up.

Credit is due to the young rider Neru (11) who features in the Instagram post by ‘TrailRippers’ alongside brothers Nathan (12) and Ruben (10). He did not just walk away. Instead, on hearing racist abuse from a group of teenagers at the local pump track in Machynlleth, he spoke up, putting support for his friends before his own discomfort.

‘TrailRippers’ Nathan and Ruben, two promising riders based in Wales, are keen to use the incident as an opportunity to highlight to the mountain bike community that is important to call out hate speech wherever you hear it. If you say nothing, the victim feels isolated and unsupported – they don’t know if you’re saying nothing because you’re embarrassed, you’re scared, you don’t care, or maybe you even support the abuser. Speaking up makes them feel supported, and confirms that the abuser’s views are not acceptable, making the victim feel welcome in the community.

Nathan says:

‘When someone like me who is a darker skin colour person gets called the n word, it’s pretty hurtful because it technically means that I’m less than a person, I’m less than human, that I’m not worth anything, so that’s pretty hard to have to hear. It’s very discomforting to know that people will just say this in front of your face and be very open about it.’

Image Credit: Ashley Leung
Image Credit: Ashley Leung

When something like this happens, someone speaking up against it makes a big difference, says Nathan, likening it to someone stopping in a race to help you back up on your feet ‘it feels very supporting’. He goes on to explain how the response from the wider mountain bike community has been:

‘Everyone didn’t like it and everyone supported me, and that really means a lot. There should be no room for racism. There’s generally no racism [in the mountain bike community], but there is racism in the community of mountain biking’.

This is a pretty subtle and astute observation for a 12 year old: while the mountain biking community is largely welcoming, since there is racism in society, inevitably some of those people overlap with the mountain bike community.

The boys are not restricting their awareness raising to racism – they’re keen that all hate speech should be tackled – and they hope to use the connections of the mountain bike community to do that. As a mountain bike community, collectively and individually we can bring our values to those who don’t share them, and make it clear that hate speech of any kind is not welcome.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Nathan (12) & Ruben (10) (@trailrippers)

‘Serious post. One of our favourite places, the pump track in Machynlleth, has not been a safe place recently. Very racist language has been used about us and been directed at some of our friends. This is very upsetting and disappointing and makes us feel unsafe and worried. The pump track is a community space to be enjoyed by all, a place to have fun together. The incidents have been reported to the relevant authorities and they are taking this very seriously. Racism, xenophobia and hate towards a person because of their gender, transgender identify or disability is not acceptable and has no place in our community. We would be immensely grateful if our friends, followers, sponsors and supporters would stand with us against all hate crimes. You can do this by sharing this post, by adding your name to the pledge from @zeroracismwales and most importantly, to call out hate when you see it happening.’

What is hate crime? 

‘Crimes committed against someone because of their disability, transgender-identity, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation are hate crimes and should be reported to the police.’ – UK Govt website

What kinds of behaviour are hate crimes?

-threatening behaviour
-damage to property
-inciting others to commit hate crimes
-online abuse

Who can report a hate crime and how?

Anyone can report a hate crime, you don’t have to be the victim. If there is no immediate danger, you can do this online:

It’s worth taking a moment to contemplate how you might respond if you did witness something happening. Doing so will better equip you to respond there and then and have the greatest impact. Don’t get caught off guard and miss the chance to call it out as I did.

Depending on the situation, you may be worried about your safety – but also consider the safety of the person who is already being abused. Choose the response you can according to the situation, but do respond. Here are some good options:

  • Challenge it – tell the abuser their behaviour is unacceptable. This makes the victim feel supported.
  • Film it – use your phone to capture what is happening. This might prove to be valuable evidence in a prosecution, or in the recording of a hate incident.
  • Report it – Obviously if there is a danger to people you should call 999. But less immediate issues can also be reported online. You don’t have to be the victim of hate speech to report it. Even if it seems like a relatively minor incident, it may be part of a pattern of a local issue. Reporting it helps build up a picture of what’s happening so the police or other agencies can respond more appropriately.
  • Speak to the victim – ask them if they’re OK. See if they need help. Let them know you don’t agree with the abuser. Speaking to the victim lets them know that they’re not alone.

Thanks to Ashley Leung of Tiny House Creatives for the images, taken at Machynlleth pump track as part of an event to mark UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

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