The Bay While Black

45 minutes into our drive north to San Francisco, my eldest began asking that most dreaded of questions: Are we there yet?

The answer was no, so his little brother began saying, "That's why I don't do long car rides." Yeah, I have a little diva on my hands.
Bay Bridge

I did my best to make the time fly by turning into one of those Insterstate 5 drivers who scared me to death my first time I drove to San Francisco, but we made it there in one piece. And it is, as always, utterly romantic and lovely here. It's also really freakin' cold. So cold that we decided to skip walking to Chinatown and instead catch a cab there.

Up till that point, I'd been having a great time... the kids LOVE San Fransco, our hotel is perfect... but, hours later, I'm still thinking about how that's when it all changed. You see, we had a little incident that I'll refer to as "Catching a Cab While Black."

I broke it down on my Twitter feed:

1) Note to self: Since you're black, only try to catch cabs at your hotel because then they HAVE to pick you up.

Cabbies flash their lights @ you & your kids & then stop for white folks just past you. Son asked, "Why won't those cabs pick us up?"

And so what do I tell my son? "Hey son, those cabbies don't want to pick you up because you're black?"

4) How about, "Son, they're not scared of you... yet. They're actually scared of your daddy because um, his black skin is sooo threatening."

I'm still upset about the whole thing... especially at the insidious psychological residue that racism leaves behind. I shouldn't have to ask myself, "Is it racism or are all these cabbies really that nasty? I know people like to think that black folks just want to cry "racism" first chance they get, but trust me, it's not true!

What is the correct response and how would you explain such a thing to your own kids?


Anonymous said…
That sucks. Back in 85 we had a reservation at a motel in SF but when we got there they tried to tell us they were fully booked. One would have hoped things had got better since then.
Anonymous said…
We whites who never get treated like that sometimes think black people are exaggerating, but as you say, not the case. Indeed, how do you explain it to kids? All you can say is that people have mindless prejudices, and one of them is the irrational fear some whites have about black skin.

It's a shame it took some of the pleasure out of your trip to San Fran.
Unknown said…
Maybe explain to them that some people have an actual disease, a disease that prevents from seeing everybody as a fellow human being, and until they get cured, their vision is impaired.
the last noel said…
How would I explain it to my own kids? It's hard to say since I don't have kids...yet. First off, I'd say there's nothing wrong with us. It's them. Then I'd say, see those cabs? They all have numbers attached to them. I'd make a phone call to the company or write an e-mail to customer service. It won't solve the problem, but I'd want my kids to know that they have actions they can take. Above all, I'd reinforce that the world can still be a wonderful place, we just have to live with a few jerks along the way. (May I have my crown now?)
Jameil said…
i have no idea what to tell a child about that. how horrid. you shouldn't have to be standing right outside your hotel to get a cab.
Oh sorry. You know what though, it's the foreigners who are the problems. The white and Asian cabbies are usually ok. I've had Pakistan and North African drivers who may pick me up BUT act overly friendly, dive slow, pretend like they don't know where they're going and all manner of BS. I once flagged a cop car down because one had jacked the meter. $6 for 3 blocks was robbery. That's why I take the unpopular for "liberals" stance about rigorously enforcing immigration laws. I'm not going to be treated like sh*t by someone who chose to live here. They have to let go of their prejudices or face the consequences. That's why this melting pot theory only works for those that are at the top and Blacks will continue to be treated like gum on the shoe by others who should know better but don't care. Anyway..that's also why I am very concerned about rap music being used as the cultural touchstone for all Blacks. It's too negative of an image.
Luxor is usually a decent cab service.

If you can call one and get the driver's contact info that should help.

I just re-read my post and it sounded a little harsh but I'm not going to take back what I said. I've had this happen to me far too often now and I'm sick of it.

If you get the cab# don't call the cab company contact SF Taxi Commission. They have to get a license and pass a test so they have to be held accountable for their actions.
Shiona said…
I would have no idea how to explain that to my son. I would say something generic about how some people would rather not deal with people who look different. That doesn't really help though. It sucks that you have to go through that. And racism is definitely no fun.
Liz Dwyer said…
That's the sort of thing people don't believe actually happens, but it does!

It took some of the pleasure out, momentarily, but before I knew it, it was back! SO pretty up here.

Such a good point. It's so easy to not explain the disease part of this, because that's exactly what it is.

You mean no giving the finger to the cab? :) Yes, you definitely deserve a crown after that response.

No parent should have to deal with that. Not at all!

I'm about to fall asleep... I gotta close my eyes before I fall orver. I will respond tomorrow! ;)
Unknown said…
I had an experience when my son was young (8) in Little Rock, Ark.
Our flight got cancelled 10pm at night. A cab took all the white people back to their respective hotels, leaving all the black folk to fend for themselves at the gate. American Airlines did not even want to comp us for an extra night. It got ugly, but after several calls, we were able to reach the brother who shuttled us from our hotel. He came to the airport, and we were given our rooms back. It took coming home to Chicago and raising hell before we were comped.

I was so mad I was a bit too honest. Now at 13, he's a little too Tupacian for my taste. I wish there was a right answer...Nick commented, "It's a shame it took some of the pleasure out of your trip to San Fran" but unfortunately, we run the risk just waking up!

Poor babies...never know when that beast will rear its ugly head...
I found myself saying "Oh, no" when I read the line about catching a cab when you're black. (My present post also deals with prejudice.)

Members of any minority always wonder if that is the reason they're treated badly, and sadly, it usually is.

All we can do as parents is to tell our children the truth, that some people are scared of anyone they perceive as different from themselves, and until this changes we are all missing out on the full richness of life because we can only learn and grow from contact with those from other cultures.

I'm sorry such nastiness marred your visit to this physically beautiful (albeit chilly) city, Liz.

Popular Posts