Written by By Zareh Ghazarian, CNN
A tasseled yellow bicycle chain is a familiar sight in Brazil, but in recent weeks there has been debate over what is being worn — and whether that could be the cause of a yellow taint.
Most of the star garnishes on local bikes are made by Design Responsible Bikes (DRB), a relatively new manufacturer based in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, that also exports to South Africa, Turkey and Argentina.
From the outside, the design of DRB bikes looks like a recoilike pair of wheels. But these are no ordinary rims.
If you glance inside — where the tassels spring free and the pedals rise up and down — a gentle breeze is sent through the gleaming chrome wheels.
A representative from Design Responsible Bikes told CNN that the design was developed to help young people tired of wearing traditional bended-wing style bicycles, which can get heavy and spoil the rider’s hair.
While neither side has commented on whether the tassels are supposed to depict the Korean flag, both Brazilians and Koreans have taken to Twitter to complain of the taint.
A tweet posted by the official fan page of the South Korean national soccer team, read: “Enough already with the yellow/green/white korean flag on your bicycles that just cause racism.”
Added another follower: “The true color of yellow is not something to be used to convey racism, hatred or fear.”
Source of Brazilian identity
The debate over Design Responsible Bikes comes during a time of national anxiety over racism and hatred.
Just last week, “Expression Brasil,” a joint initiative of Brazilian radio stations, asked listeners to take a picture of graffiti they found all over the city.
(a gallery of the graffiti can be found on the website of the media group.)
Among the examples they found was a rainbow flag, which many feel is symbolic of Brazil’s gay community. But the rainbow flag is also associated with gay rights in South Korea, thus the accusations of racism.
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Asphalt-covered shanty towns, as well as racist graffiti, are common in Brazil, particularly in the country’s largest city, Rio de Janeiro. (Updating CNN’s Africa correspondent Matthew Diamond on the situation there, he said: “It’s not complicated. Brazilians are racists.”)
And while many Brazilians defend DRB as a small, innovative company, there has been widespread support for an online petition to get the company and the Brazilian government to voluntarily remove the flags from bikes.