Karen Wang on Building AAPI Community through Cycling

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Bike Works would like to share a reflection written by Karen Wang, a comedian, baker, photographer, and a sponsored rider for All City Cycles. Last March, in response to the escalating attacks on Asians around the country, Wang organized an impromptu ride as a place for healing and solidarity for those who identify as Asian. Over 40 strangers and friends came out on short notice in support. We are excited to share Wang’s story, and to invite any Asian Pacific American identifying riders to join another ride on Saturday, May 22nd for a chance to sprout a new community. Thank you Wang for your vulnerability and inspiration.

I was born to my Taiwanese parents in Massachusetts and later my mother became widowed when I was 8 years old. She then moved my older sister and me down to Texas where we spent our adolescent years growing up subconsciously assimilating to white culture.

The Atlanta shootings on March 16, 2021 uncovered a history of anti-Asian sentiments, xenophobia, misogyny, and fetishization of Asian women in this country that shook the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community into fear, pain, anger and deeply rooted trauma. To me personally, it completely flipped my world upside down in a way that I would have never expected. It resurfaced so much racism and family trauma in my childhood that I had suppressed my entire life trying to fit in and fly under the radar in order to keep quiet and not disturb the peace. Basically, I was reevaluating my entire racial identity that I had been so ashamed about for 30+ years. To say that the following week was hard to process is truly an understatement.

Basically, I was reevaluating my entire racial identity that I had been so ashamed about for 30+ years.

I had also come to the realization I had diminished myself as an Asian American so much that I had little to no close AAPI friends in my own community. Most of all of my friends are white, and I now find it deeply unsettling. I had met up with another Asian friend that week that was super impactful in processing the trauma, and it was incredibly healing to be with another person that looked like me and had similar racial experiences growing up. Timing was crucial for me as I am an external processor.

From there, I thought I would try to put together a bike ride as quickly as possible for the AAPI community because I knew that’s what I needed and wanted. Initially, I was inspired by Ron Holden, who is another fellow sponsored All-City rider, that started Ride for Black Lives in LA. Hearing him speak about his passion for the community was infectious, and I had always wanted to organize a ride but have felt I was not credible nor equipped enough with the experience. But this time, I felt like it was so important to me that I knew it had to happen, and it didn’t matter that I didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted to create a safe space for healing for the AAPI community where they could come together on bikes, be able to meet others where they were, and build a genuine connection. I knew I couldn’t have been the only one feeling so alone that I wanted to be surrounded by my people during this time.

I wanted to create a safe space for healing for the AAPI community where they could come together on bikes, be able to meet others where they were, and build a genuine connection.

That evening, I had never experienced so much pride in my own race and identity. We had felt seen, supported, cared for and so loved by our own community. This was only the beginning of our healing and the spark of something more to come.