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

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DeVonna Bentley-Pittman


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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.