Now it’s taxi “racism”
by Alexander Baron
Two studies by the TV station WUSA9 have highlighted what it claims is racial discrimination by Washington taxi drivers, but is this really the case?
A non-critical article about this so-called investigation has already been at Digital Journal. On the face of it, the video clips make uncomfortable viewing, especially for sensitive liberals from the West coast, but does it paint a true picture, and if it does, is there an alternative explanation for this phenomenon?
The first question we should ask is, have the videos been edited? Obviously, the team from WUSA9 didn’t have time to show every single one, but leaving aside the missing scientific controls, this appears to be an honest - though mistaken - report. In fact, this report and the previous one are so transparently honest, that it beggars belief the people who produced it don’t understand the real issues here.
To begin with, the taxis therein did not refuse solely black passengers, some refused white ones. And, this was not a case of white drivers refusing to take black passengers, many, indeed most of the drivers were non-white or even black themselves. So what is really going on here?
Look at the two photographs below, and ask yourself, if you were driving a taxi late at night, which of these people would you rather pick up? Okay, the caption on the second is a bit of a give-away, but most people go with their gut instinct. Yes, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but often we do because that is reasonable. It’s only a guideline, so it can be wrong, but in most situations it’s all we have to go on.
If you didn’t recognise Charles Ramsey as the man who rescued Amanda Berry and two other young women from indescribable horror in Cleveland recently, you’d quite likely cross the road to avoid him on a dark night, especially if you were a woman walking in a deserted area. Wouldn’t you? Be honest. And if you were walking in your local park on a sunny day, you wouldn’t expect a young woman like Hannah Bonser to stab a 13 year old girl to death for no rational reason. That doesn’t alter the fact that in certain urban areas, if you are attacked on the street, the perpetrator(s) will most likely be black as well as young.
It is not only Washington or the United States where a passenger - black or otherwise - may be refused by a taxi driver. Early last year, the Labour MP Diane Abbott raised the same issue. This is an issue rather than a problem, but let’s ask that same question, posed by that blog: taxi drivers are self-employed, if they don’t earn, they don’t eat. Why would any taxi driver turn down a fare? Especially, why would a black taxi driver turn down a black passenger? Maybe they know something we don’t, or something that for whatever reason the people at WUSA9 choose to ignore.
In the UK, there have been problems not only with taxi drivers being attacked by members of the public but of illegal drivers (touts) attacking young women, not to rob them, but for the other reason.
Here there are, broadly speaking, two types of taxi: black cabs and all the rest. Black cab drivers are vetted by the police and have an encyclopedic knowledge of their bailiwick. In London, this is known as The Knowledge. Black cab fares are expensive, but this is a premium service; a woman especially who takes a cab home late at night is paying not simply for the ride but for the assurance that the man who is driving her will not proposition much less rape her.
In 1992, taxi driver Frank Welton received an eight year sentence for raping a Spanish student. Three years ago, taxi driver and serial rapist John Worboys was given a life sentence. That appears to be the sum total of such rogues. Worboys got away with his crimes for so long because the police didn’t believe a genuine black cab driver could have been responsible for such crimes.
In April 1990, a specialist taxi service called Lady Cabs was set up to provide women drivers for women passengers. Only an idiot would raise the issue of discrimination on that account.
There is an important message here, a woman is entitled to choose her driver, but a driver is not entitled to choose his passenger? That appears to be the proposition supported by WUSA9. Taxi drivers do have a discretion as to whom they transport, but sometimes that discretion is not exercised as widely as it should be. Two years ago, there was a spate of attacks on drivers in San Francisco. There are many videos relating to such attacks on YouTube.
So what solution to this non-problem does WUSA9 propose? Would you believe fines of up to $500 on “offenders”?
The drivers in the video gave a variety of excuses for not picking up black passengers, and doubtless they were most of them lying, but whether or not this is shame, tact, or something else, driving a taxi is one of the few ways in which an unskilled man can make a decent living in the US and increasingly anywhere. Fining a driver for using his discretion is unfair, especially if by refusing to stop for a particular prospective passenger he has lost a lucrative fare.
Doubtless though, some half-wit academic will now write a book about taxi racism - don’t laugh, that phrase is already in use - and perhaps there will be Congressional hearings, maybe new laws making it a criminal offence not to stop for blacks, and of course a few dozen multi-billion dollar law suits for “hurt feelings” and such.
This will of course lead to higher taxes and more useless government spending for lawyers, ethnic transport monitors, and such, all public money that could have been spent on real problems, including those members of the black underclass who never hail taxis because, unlike the victims in the two WUSA9 videos, they can’t afford the premium ride.
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