The Politics Of Hailing A Cab

By Guest Contributor Loryn Wilson, cross-posted from

On New Year’s Eve, I stumbled out of Marvin and went out to 14th Street to find a cab. Next to me was a white guy, apparently trying to do the same thing. A cab pulls up, and I jump in as fast as I could, because I know how this normally goes. Most of the time, this story ends with the white guy getting picked up and I’m left to wait for a cab driver to stop for a black girl.

I must’ve not shut the door quick enough, because the white guy who was standing on the same corner as me squeezes his ass in! The cabdriver asks where he’s going and it’s in the complete opposite direction as my destination. The cabdriver says he can only take one of us to our destination. I get indignant. “Sir, I was here first. You’re not kicking me out of the cab. At all.”

The white guy pipes up and says “But I’m not that far away! I’m going to Connecticut Avenue!” he sounds like he is about to start whining. I repeat that I will not leave the cab.

To my surprise, the cab driver tells the white guy to get out of cab! As he’s getting out the cab, the white guy says to me, “You can go f*ck yourself!” and slams the door.

I was floored. This man was so angry that a privilege normally afforded to him was denied, that he felt the need to curse at me. I wasn’t letting him get away with it. I rolled down the window as the cab sat at the stop light, and said, “GOODBYE SIR! HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

I mean, I was doing the Miss America Wave and everything. Sure, taunting is petty, but when you act like an asshole I think you deserve it.

Fast forward to last night.

After dancing my butt off at the Axel F Party, my friend and I head out to U Street to yet again hail a cab. About 45 minutes later and after seeing every cab pass us to pick up a white person a few more feet away, we decided U Street was a lost cause, and took the metro to Ft. Totten–yes, Ft. Totten–to finally find a cab that would take us home.

But why in 2011 does this still happen? Why is it that cab drivers–who are sometimes they themselves Black–still refuse to pick up Black people on a Saturday night?

Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard from other people when I’ve  posed the question:

1.-the fear that Black people won’t have the money for a cab.

2.-not wanting to go into a “bad” (read: Black) neighborhood.

3.-the overwhelming belief that White people give really huge tips.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked that this kind of thing still happens but I am surprised because I’m not sure where it comes from. It should be so hard for two black girls to find a cab that we’re forced to go the other side of town to find one.

One word on the neighborhood issue: Overwhelmingly, it turns out that a lot of White people are going to the exact same destinations as Black people when it’s time to go home–especially in the advent of gentrification. So that can’t be it.

Or is it?