I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to hail a cab in the Loop and watched it zoom past me, only to see that same cab pull over halfway down the block for someone else. Far too many of my Black friends and family members have had the same humiliating, dehumanizing experience.
Even former first lady Michelle Obama spoke about this back in 2014 when she explained how, before moving to D.C., President Barack Obama had his “share of troubles catching cabs” as a Black man on the South Side.
The Chicago Tribune’s recent editorial on ride-shares and taxi cabs (“We were wrong to abandon taxicabs for ride-shares and Chicago now needs to find a fix,” Sept. 14) was a painful reminder of that time when Chicago cabs refused to serve the South or West sides, or commonly bypassed Black hailers. The piece alludes to this by vaguely nodding to “issues with cabs refusing to offer service in certain neighborhoods.” Sorry, but it goes a lot deeper than that, and it’s offensive to diminish the racism and experiences of communities of color.
In reality, this mistreatment was such a common occurrence that there was a phrase to describe it: “hailing while Black.” It captures the uncertainty of never being quite sure if you’ll have a way home, simply because of the color of your skin.
Even though the Black community in Chicago was extremely vocal about the taxicab industry not serving their neighborhoods and residents, the problem of hailing while Black persisted for far too long.
That changed when ride-sharing companies came to Chicago and solved the lack of mobility and access residents had faced across the South and West sides. We went from living in public transportation and taxicab deserts to having reliable options for getting to and from work, visiting family, going to a doctor’s appointment or even grocery shopping.
It took a prominent Black voice in Chicago media to put this into perspective when Laura Washington wrote in 2016 about her frustrations of hailing while Black and how refreshing it was to see an Uber driver “cheerfully” take her to areas where cabs would never venture. According to her research, traditional taxi cabs had made a mere 350,000 trips to or from underserved Chicago communities between October 2015 and March 2016, compared with Uber’s 3.9 million in the same time frame.
To continue reading the full piece, please visit: https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-taxis-rideshare-uber-lyft-chicago-blacks-20210927-dhtg3b7rjnaxzna5r47wl3cgpm-story.html