All Asian cyclists look the same

Oh, the hazards of biking while Asian. Highly amused by this embarrassing incident out of Portland... Last weekend, a bunch of bicycle activists went for a ride across the city to promote better streets. Or something. So what happens when a random Asian dude that nobody knows shows up to participate in the ride?

The cyclists accuse him of being an undercover cop.

One guy, who happened to be Asian, joined up the ride. He had a new bike, was sporting "all brand new stereotypical biker gear," and didn't really speak with anyone. Folks got suspicious and jumped to the conclusion that quiet Asian dude had to be an undercover cop trying to infiltrate them.

In fact, in a blog post on BikePortland (which has since been taken down), publisher Jonthan Maus identified the mysterious Asian dude as Portland Police Bureau Captain Chris Uehara. He even posted side-by-side photos of bike guy and Capt. Uehara, confidently declaring that "the man in these photos appears to be the same man." Asian guy. Asian guy. Absolutely, positively the same guy. No doubt about it.

Wrong. BikePortland later acknowledged that the man was indeed not Capt. Uehara, but instead a man named Krisapon Chaisawat, a 35-year-old food server. He's new in town and wanted to go on the ride to meet some people. People who ended up accusing him of being up to no good.

The whole thing, of course, set off accusations of racism, denials of racism, then apologies. Apologies for racism and apologies for denials of racism. Let us be real -- race was a big factor in this foolishness, whether you're talking about being suspicious of the Asian bicyclist who joined up with the ride, or the failure to distinguish between two completely different Asian dudes. Embarrassing.

Here is Maus' formal apology: An apology and other thoughts on that story.

Next time I'm in Portland, remind me not to get on a bike. Some folks seem to have a little trouble telling Asian guys apart. People might confuse me with some other Asian dude on bike, and who knows what kind bad business that guy's into?

UPDATE: Jonathan Maus met and talked it out with Captain Uehara: Meeting Captain Chris Uehara.

And here's Veloprovo's apology: Radical Accountability vs. Security Culture: An Unconditional Apology for My Racism.

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