Living For The City: Al Roker And The Struggle To Flag Down A Cab While Black In NYC

November 23, 2015  |  

In Brooklyn, it can be pretty easy to catch a cab. At least, from my experiences it can be. There are a gang of dollar cabs driving around often looking to pick up people, honking at you as you walk down the street as if to say, “Why walk when you can pay at least $7 to get wherever you need to go? Oh, and cash only by the way.” And then there are green cabs and yellow cabs floating around. Those are what everyone step out into the street for. The holy grail. Not only do they take cards, but they’re often a lot cleaner and comfier than the dollar cabs. And I would be remiss if I tried to recommend a dollar van. Do yourself a favor and just take the train.

But getting a cab in Manhattan? Got some time to waste? It’s hard for a lot of people, but it’s definitely not an overreaction when Black folks say, despite their best jumping-in-traffic efforts, a lot of the yellow cabs floating around don’t want to pick us up. It’s a problem even someone famous, whose face is on TV five days a week, faces. Like Al Roker.

Roker shared the tweets you see above after a cab driver passed him and his son up to pick up a White man. And as he stated, “This happens to folks of color every day.”

My co-workers and I work in midtown Manhattan, and there are a sea of cabs trying to move up and down the streets. Sadly, there have been quite a few times when we’ve waited, together and on our own, hand up, for a yellow cab to pick us up only to watch them take others.

One of my colleagues literally had a verbal spat with a White woman over a cab in the street. After a cab driver had stopped to pick this co-worker up, she approached the cab, which stopped near the corner. Out of nowhere, a young woman opened the door and got in. The driver did and said nothing about it. My co-worker, enraged, scoffed loudly and let the woman know her skin color was why she was getting the ride over her and why she didn’t realize how foul it was not to feel bad about it. When the woman said that wasn’t true, my co-worker said, “Yes, BITCH, it is!” Thankfully, she picked up a cab…five to 10 minutes later…and made it to her event in decent time.

And then there was the time I was at the airport, sick as a dog with a stomach pain that damn near had me thinking I needed my appendix taken out. As I stood in the long line for a yellow cab, stomach throbbing, I was waiting behind an older White couple who looked like tourists. Not knowing exactly where they were going (and half these cabbies STILL act like they don’t have GPS), a driver could make a grip off of them. So when two cabs pulled up, and the attendant pointed me to a White man’s SUV taxi, and the couple to a smaller car, the driver I was appointed was already irate.

“Why didn’t you give me the couple?! Huh?!”

He never explicitly stated why he was so disappointed to have me as his passenger, but I assumed it had to do with his assumptions of me. Like, I was either going to take him deep into the hood, not tip him, or not go very far from Queens. Either way, the attendant wasn’t having the best day either, so he yelled back, and they argued. Because I was sick after a four-hour flight, I had no time for the shenanigans. I told both men that I didn’t want to ride with the trifling cabbie and that I’d prefer to wait in the cold for someone else. He took a different White person and, of course, didn’t make a fuss when they hopped in.

I used to think that the whole, “Good luck getting a cab as a Black person” thing you’d hear about in stand-up comedy specials and on sitcoms was simply a joke. But when you hear enough people complain about being passed up time and time again for a White man or woman, no matter how buttoned up and buppie-ish you think you look, and when you experience it on your own when you have somewhere you legitimately need to be, you realize that this sh-t is real. And there’s nothing funny about it.

 

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