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‘Brown Bike Girl’ in Portland to offer anti-bias seminar

Posted by on January 23rd, 2020 at 10:24 am

Courtney Williams
(From her website)

Courtney Williams wants cycling advocates to change on the inside before working to change what’s outside.

Williams, a bicycle advocacy consultant who lives in Brooklyn, New York and is also known as The Brown Bike Girl, wants more organizers and community leaders in the cycling space to think not just about bike lanes, but whether or not their own biases and privilege prevent people from influencing projects and policies that relate directly to the institutional and physical barriers they face while getting from place to place.

Williams will host, Outside Advocate: Anti-Bias, Anti-Privilege Seminar, on Saturday (1/25) at The Street Trust headquarters in northwest Portland.

While here, Williams said via email this week that she wants to, “Help the Greater Portland bike community begin to work through eliminating some of the repetitive racial faux pas and internal biases that have been a roadblock to unification of diverse communities over time.”


In fall 2018 Williams spoke on the topic of racial justice and equitable infrastructure planning at the North American Bike Share Association conference in Portland and sees Saturday’s event as a continuation of that conversation. According to Williams, “The impact of providing or withholding bike lanes and bike share stations [from certain people in certain neighborhoods] plays into either normalizing or criminalizing the sight of people of color on bikes — and therefore leads to disproportionate and unnecessary interactions with police that frequently lead to other long-term life complications.”

“Making people into one-dimensional characters for the sake of leverage is tokenism.”
— Courtney Williams

The idea of “freedom of movement for every set of neighbors and neighborhoods” is central to Williams’ approach and she wants to help organizations, “Make an institutional practice of examining all the factors that may enhance or impede that right.”

Asked via email this week for an example of a common mistake organizations make, Williams said tokenism is a big one. “Often times, organizations that seek to be more inclusive latch on to the idea that ‘representation matters’ (and it does) and begin to integrate images of target groups of color into their marketing,” she said. “They then congratulate themselves on their diversity work without having achieved any measurable outcomes.” Instead of making real changes, Williams sees tokenism as, “Making people into one-dimensional characters for the sake of leverage.” During her seminar she’ll lead a discussion about how to navigate the nuances of representation.

Williams is a member of the 2020 Filmed by Bike jury and connected with The Street Trust to add the seminar to her visit to Portland. Registration for Saturday’s class is closed, but you can email Williams at to fill remaining spots and/or be on the cancellation list.

Learn more about the event here.

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rain panthermark smithDavid HampstenHello, KittyJBone Recent comment authors
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Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy

Exactly this: The presumption that one knows what is best for another group, without actually asking that other group. That’s subtle well-intentioned racism…and you’d be surprised how many minorities see through that.

““Often times, organizations that seek to be more inclusive latch on to the idea that ‘representation matters’ (and it does) and begin to integrate images of target groups of color into their marketing,” she said. “


How can it be racist, when one race is speaking for another? Wouldn’t that instead be Racial Appropriation?


What would you call it when PBOT asks people of color who only drive what is best for people of color who bike?

David Hampsten

When I was a community advocate in East Portland, we were always seeking voices from each community, token voices from African-Americans, Vietnamese, Russians, Romanians, Hispanic, white homeowners, newly-arrived white renters, etc. Given that there are over 100 different ethnic and linguistic groups just in East Portland, it wasn’t hard to find “diversity”, but it was very hard to recruit any volunteers, including whites. And, yes, we were always seeking token voices, as if a single individual could represent all viewpoints of a large community.

Living here in a city that is 40% white and 43% African-American, I now realize that seeking token voices is a pointless and useless exercise in public advocacy. The reality is that there are a huge diversity in thought and deed in all communities. I have not only met many African-Americans who believe that the police are racist and out to get them, but also many other African-Americans who believe the police are fair and unprejudiced and expect them to continue to enforce the law uniformly regardless of race, ethnicity, income status, etc. Same with whites, as well as our large local immigrant and migrant worker communities.


Cheers to the The Street Trust for hosting this important conversation, and many thanks to Courtney for her excellent advocacy and work!


For any white readers who get hurt/ offended/ bothered/ threatened by Courtney Williams’s (An expert in her field) upcoming workshop (One that is MUCH needed in Portland), I encourage you to consider reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Also, please consider not leaving comments here. Read/ learn instead.

Mark smith
Mark smith

and all of the projects that have happened in Portland she couldn’t point to a single project that was somehow a blind spot for any minority community.

So either she is completely unaware of any other projects or they’re good. It’s a little surprising to me that she did not point out that the current i-5 gutted the black minority community in North Portland. Shell’s a failed to point out that North Portland is gentrifying pushing out black families.

I’m sure she is smart I am sure she is going to be a great asset to the minority bike community but I would not exactly call her an expert. I would say if she was an expert she might point out that in the minority community bicycling is not cool on the level it is in the white community. So between the freeway literally taking homes of black families for pennies and the fact that Portland today wants to put a freeway in the backyard of a black school… And the fact that cycling is not cool for minorities…that might just be a few reasons why minority communities stand in the way of bike lanes for unforeseen reasons.

The public meetings for any bike lane or any project are open to everybody. So the question is why isn’t the minority community showing up?

mark smith
mark smith

rain panther
“And the fact that cycling is not cool for minorities.”I wouldn’t say that’s a fact so much as an assumption. Or at best, maybe a hypothesis? If it’s the latter, maybe there’s some sort of data or research you’d like to share?Recommended 0

Look it up.