Taxi Bigotry Isn't Black and White, Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader adds to the growing thread:

For obvious reasons to follow, I wish to remain anonymous. However, when I was a junky living and using in Baltimore as a white male software developer, I could always get cabs to the very neighborhoods that a cabbie would not bring a black customer—even though they knew why I was going where I was going and at hours that were definitely not work hours. And yes, most of the drivers were of East African origin. They also did not care what I was doing. Only that I was white and my money was green.

Later, having been fired from multiple software engineering positions for being a heroin addict, I became a hack—a member of the underground unregulated Baltimore taxi economy.

I had maybe two bad experiences out of hundreds, but I learned a lot during that year. Though I admittedly stopped picking up groups of more than two male (often black) passengers after those two bad experiences.

I was able to kick dope and return to my career, but I got more education out of “hacking” in Baltimore than I ever did in college. I once even picked up a woman who was sexually assaulted and brought her to the police station for help. The vast majority of my African American passengers were only forced to choose an unregulated and unsafe jitney cab because they could not access other options. Kind of reminds me of the retail banking industry in a way.

The reader follows up:

I also want to mention that I grew up quite poor, but I learned that growing up poor and white is much less of a handicap than growing up poor and black in America. I could always blend through my own force of will and by imitating the mannerisms of “betters,” but I would guess that to be much harder were I to stand out due to my melanin content.

I’ve also reattained employment in my field despite having a criminal record. I can’t think that would also be more difficult had I been born black. I can explain away my issues as youthful indiscretions, even though they lasted into my thirties. Yet an African American friend of mine with similar qualifications and much more educated parents (wealthier parents too) has a much harder time with doing the same.