Combatting Black Stereotypes Or Why I Tipped The Cab Driver Who Tried To Avoid Picking Me Up
The other day, my sister and I were coming from an advanced screening of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. The wind was whipping so hard before we even got into the theater, that we knew we were going to take a cab home. After grabbing something to eat, I was happy to see there was an area, across the street, where a gang of cabs were moving around the intersection. We had to hurry before our good fortune changed.
We crossed and fortunately, right as we got over there, a White girl was getting out of a cab. I know she saw us approaching her. In fact, I locked eyes with the driver, so I know he saw us too. Still, when she got out of the car, she slammed the door, practically in my face. Thankfully, I’d managed to side step her and as the door fully closed, I grabbed the handle. But the struggle didn’t end there. Just as the door connected, my hand wrapped around the handle, the driver started to slowly peel away from the curb. Unfortunately for him and fortunately for my sister and I, he couldn’t deny that we were standing there. Thankfully, he had enough good sense not to have another Jerrell Horton incident and he stopped moving and allowed us to open the door and get in the car.
After getting in and greeting him with an exaggerated and overly bubbly tone, my sister and I sat in the back seat, giggled down. He and that White lady really tried it that night. That driver looked at my sister and I, me in a pink, furry coat that screamed Harlem, and figured, for whatever reason, that he didn’t want to be bothered. But we’d gotten the best of both of them. And I was glad about it.
Just as we were reveling in our victory, I thought about the payment. And then, the tip. The man had clearly conspired to leave us, based most likely on what he presumed about our race. I feel extremely confident in saying that, with New York’s reputation as well as my own experience with cab drivers. Not only did the man not deserve a tip, he was teetering very close to breaking the law in his near refusal to pick us up in the first place.
And then, to my dismay, I thought but if I don’t tip him will it only perpetuate the very reason he didn’t want to stop for us? Did he try to drive away because he believes the stereotype that Black people don’t tip? If that was the case, as it very well might have been, what would my decision not to tip mean for the next Black person trying to catch his cab? Would he attempt to drive away from them too? Would that person have time to let go of the door handle before he pulled off?
The whole thing was tripping me out. Here was this cab driver, a man of color himself, causing me to consider compensating for his bad behavior when I had done nothing wrong.
Somewhere along the ride, my sister and I decided that I should tip, just not my usual 20 percent. I used my card. And when he saw what we had given him, he became very expressive.
The man who didn’t have much to say for the entire ride, with the exception of asking for directions as he neared our apartment, suddenly was very grateful. “Thank you. Thank you! Have a good night. Thank you.” There was a mix of sincerity and shame in his voice.
He knew he had acted a fool. He knew he didn’t deserve a tip. And while I hate that he got even more of my money for a job poorly done, my hope is that the next time he sees Black people approaching his cab, his first inclination won’t be to leave them standing dumbfounded, disgusted and discouraged on the sidewalk.