Harlem Night: A Taxi Story
I was reading one of yesterday’s posts, The Taxi Struggle, and I was reminded of my first experience hailing a cab. I need to share this story to bring attention to the fact that Fivefifths‘ experience was not an isolated event. I’ve worked on a few diversity workshops before and let me tell you, mad White people don’t think racism exists anymore. When we would show videos about racism in today’s society on consulting projects, and you would’ve sworn we had broken down COINTELPRO.
So we gotta share these instances of 21st-century racism to let people know that we still have work to do. That being said, let me recollect this bullshit.
Oh yeah, that’s right…
I was in New York for New Year’s Eve. I met up with my friends in Harlem to pregame for the New Year’s party in SoHo. We went to one of the homey’s apartments and got more bottles than a recycling bin. Needless to say, we went HAM. Everybody was fresh, GQ’d, swagged out, on one, turnt up, winning and we were about to go in.
The year was going to turn in two hours, so everybody got their hard-bottoms and heels and we hit the street to go look for a cab. The artic New York wind toned everybody down a bit. That, and the fact that every cab seemed to be off duty.
At first I didn’t even know what was going on. I hadn’t actually hailed a cab with no White people around before that moment. The few times that I needed a cab in life, I usually just called the company; and I thought that the whole Black-people-can’t-get-a-cab thing was just a thing of the past. I had only seen on TV and in movies. But this shit was real.
There we were, in the cold. Guys in thin-ass slacks. Girls in short-ass skirts. And EVERY cab passed us. At first I thought that the taxis were actually off duty; then I remembered that we were in New York City on New Year’s Eve and that wouldn’t make any damn sense. I looked at my friend, Chris, waving his hand in the frosty air as taxis drove by us to pick up White people a block down the road.
Taxi drivers were literally looking us in the face and shaking their heads. One guy even mouthed the word “no”. Never has “no” hurt as much as it hurt then. I looked at my friends and half of them had pulled out cash and had begun waving it in the street. What the hell is going on! This is what we had been reduced to? Successful, educated and paid Black people running in the freezing cold, catching pneumonia, waving cash around like a twerk song just came on in the strip club?
We had to get to this party. We had all bought tickets, people had come in from out of town, and the ball was about to drop. So finally, Chris walked out into the middle of the street, took out a hand full of twenties, stood in front of an oncoming taxi and slapped his hand full of cash on the windshield as he yelled
“We have money! We have money goddamnit! Look! Let us in!”
The driver pretty much had no other choice but to stop for us at that point. Especially considering the fact that there were a whole bunch of angry Black people surrounding his vehicle. So we got in, went to SoHo and raged. I kinda threw my money in the face of the taxi driver when we paid for the ride. I’m not saying that I’m proud of it but…it happened.
A lot of us walk around thinking that the salary, the degrees, the vernacular and the clothes will keep people from judging us and wrongfully treating us like lesser people. We surely don’t succeed, learn, speak and behave the way we do solely for the acceptance of other groups, but there is still an expectation of respect. But even when you’re in a shawl-collared cardigan holding a text book, there are plenty of people who just see some nigga in the street. I know it’s ridiculous, but such is life in a world filled with ignoramuses.
Racism exists. Prejudice exists. But we’re gonna keep getting to the places we want to be, with or without a cab ride.
Enjoy the weekend. Good luck with the taxis.