COMMUNITY VOICES | Minneapolis cab drivers perpetrate racism as Star Tribune reporters witness blatant bias

After graduating with honors from Grambling State University this past Spring, Brittany Bentley returned to Minnesota to participate in the Teach for America program. Out of ten choices, Minneapolis was her fifth. 

 

We moved to Minneapolis when my daughter was eighteen months old, but she has always believed she'd feel more welcome in other parts of the world. My daughter has grown to accept her placement here after meeting some of the 5th graders she will be teaching in the fall. Her experience this past weekend brings some realities back to the forefront. The race relations issue in this state exists at every level of the spectrum. Here is an account of what she experienced this past weekend while trying to hail a cab in downtown Minneapolis.

 

"Two Caucasian reporters from the Star tribune come up to me and ask how long I’ve been waiting for a cab. I tell them that I’ve been waiting for over an hour. By this time it’s apparent that the cab drivers are ONLY stopping for Caucasians. They proceed to help us flag down cabs. Feeling hopeful, I give a thumbs up to the reporters when a cab driver pulls over. We walk in front of the reporters to slide into the car, and the cab driver changes his tone, he demands us to give him the money in advance. I get angry, drop a few choice words and retreat back to hunt for cabs.

 

The reporters are able to stop four cabs within ten minutes, and in an hour we were able to stop none. One of the reporters turns to me and apologizes, “I have never seen anything like this in my life.” I asked her if she would be surprised if I told her that this is nothing new for me. They continue to get cabs to stop by telling the cab drivers that they are the ones in need of a ride, but when they point to us and say that their friends need the cab instead, the cab drives off.

 

The fiasco didn’t end there, my friends and I hopped in another cab and the driver tells us to get out, then a Caucasian man starts to slide by us to get in. The passenger profusely apologizes to us, because he sees it too. I tell him it’s not his fault. The cab drives off with the man in the car.

 

What makes anyone think that we don’t have money in our bank accounts? What makes them feel anyone else is worth picking up and we are not? Contrary to the preconceived notions placed upon us that night, we are all destined for success. We are all in a Master’s program at the University of Minnesota, many of us are here from other states studying to be educators, and we are all employed, most importantly we all had cab fare and was willing to pay it. 

 

Eventually one of the cabs don't drive off and it literally takes us five minutes to get to our destination. At the end of the evening, the question and answer from that night's cab hunt came rushing back to me, “why is it so hard to get a cab, do they not see us?” I remembered my friend's response, “they see us…why do you think they don't stop?” I had turned my hands over and looked at my skin and replied…"Damn, I forgot.”

 

As a mother, I was forced to reminisce about my experiences in Minnesota, and I know that overall it has been good. With the positive experiences, I can't deny that I've had to learn how to maneuver through many instances of covert, unintentional, and internalized racism. When my daughter shared her experiences with me I knew I needed to share her story. What else is a mother to do?

                                         

 

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Saying it and saying it loud,

 

-De'Vonna Bentley-Pittman

Author, Columnist, Blogger

POINT(114.177987 22.321702)
  • A couple of things jump out from the article. The blame can be as suggested, covert, unintentional, internalized racism. Or real world experiences, which helped shape the downtown cabbies reluctance to stop. Now personally, I'd like to believe I would stop for anyone who needs a ride, isn't that a cabbie' job? The other side of the coin may be to interview a slug of cabbies to try to understand it from behind the wheel. Brittany Bentley may be all and more than you say she is, but that obviously doesn't reflect through the windshield of a downtown cab driver. - by Bob Ries on Tue, 06/24/2014 - 4:22pm
  • Christian, how else do you propose we fix the shortage of teachers in Minnesota? The facts are harsh and real, many schools don't have teachers and many of your friends and family are not becoming educators. It was a wise move by our state to figure out how to fix a problem that wasn't fixing itself. They are training college educated individuals to be educators. Remember, these young folks graduated at the top of their class. Just as teachers can decide they want to change careers after getting a degree in education, other areas of focus should be able to do the same. The shortage of educators is just as real as your disdain for TFA, but only provides real solutions. http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/pdf/MNTeacherSupplyDemand.pdf - by Shanay Francis on Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:46am
  • Yea you get use to it I just move from there I lived there for 20 yrs and what makes it so bad its black on black racism most of the cab drivers that I had experience with are from Somalia not to say all of them do this but I've seen quit a few They sometimes want Caucasian people to ride feeling they wil get the most fare with bigger tips in all fairness I will say that some of them fear they will be led to an undesirable neighborhood and get robbed at any rate I it still hard to get discriminated against because of someone fear or misconceptions of you especially when you never done anything to make them think otherwise it time to switch careers if you don't treat everyone fair - by Anjanette Walton on Wed, 06/25/2014 - 3:45pm
  • I am sorry for what happen to you , but let us Look at other side of story , a lot of taxi drivers were killed by people who flagged them , many of those killing happened in North Minneapolis this bad experience are playing in every taxi driver mind , I don't think taxi drivers will refuse to pick you up if you call them from you phone , having customer phone number will insure taxi driver the person he/she picking up is not gonna harm them. - by Mohamed Gaiyte on Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:17am
  • I think 20/20 did a show on a similar situation in New York. They had a young Black man and a young Caucasian man, similarly dressed try to hail a cab. They had the same results. Now I can see why some might suggest asking the cab drivers, but how honest do you think they will be? No one wants to appear to be a racist. - by Ea Porter on Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:29am
  • I'm assuming most of these cabbies are not Caucasian, either... - by on Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:23am
  • This experience is not uncommon in mid to large downtown cities. Across our diverse land of the free and brave. In fact, amongst African American's this is a regular incident that occurs. When I hear such stories regardless of race and culture, my mind boggles with ideas of resolutions. Also what is the result of qualitative data, per the topic at hand, if any. Personally the Pisces that I am, a dreamer, ideas and resolutions penetrate my soul. So when I hear such stories I'm infatuated to understand. For example, there are three sides to every story- their side, your side, & then the truth. However what is left out of this known equation are individual experiences. Also too add cultural group experiences; there are understandings, work related experiences, and environmental reasons why the cab drivers behave as such! Brittney and her friend(s) exposure to this is unfortunately not obsolete. I don't agree with that type of customer service from cab drivers. On the other had I do not believe they drive away from African American patrons for the heck of it. Is is right? No. To say the least, perhaps they have been burned by ethic patrons that expect a free ride. It only takes a person or group of people to be taken advantage a few times. Before they judge and stereotype an entire group of people the same. Perhaps to not judge a book by its cover should be a common law. Fortunately Brittney is not the problem in this, she never was. This issue is deeper! I've seen at least three report specials of this topic... a touchy one it is. Again I am in no means choosing a side on this subject; however, there is a reason behind why this happens. Is it racial profiling, prejudice beliefs, bad experiences, or merely a lack of cultural understanding for the black race. Not all seeds grow and behave the same in any race. Resolution: All people should be required to pay among entering a cab. Do not single out one race to do as such. - by Key Bentley on Tue, 06/24/2014 - 10:12pm
  • sorry, i stopped after reading Teach for America - interesting idea, but horrible, horrible implementation and reasoning. - by Christian Hoogheem on Tue, 06/24/2014 - 7:16pm

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I learned long ago that...


I learned long ago that somethings you don't dignify with a response, and to deal with only facts and what really matters. My daughter couldn't get a cab in the state she was raised in, pays taxes in, and lives in. Now, that was appauling to me. I know that these kinds of forums elicit conversation and reflection. It forces each of us to look at our selves in the mirror. What do you really believe about equality? Many have deflected the issue, therefore it's obvious what their beliefs are at their core. If it was their own child black or white, what would they feel or how would they chose to arrive at a solution? Great suggestion by Bob Ries to speak with the cabbies to better understand their behavior and what things/people tend to look like or how those particular "people" tend to make others feel. I'd have to say that there is nothing frightening about "Brittany's face" no matter how you look at it.


 


Brittany Bentley Thank you Brittany for allowing me to share your story.