Saturday, November 18, 2017

Green & White and Anti-Black

There have been lots of reminders lately that anti-blackness is a real force in the U.S., 2017. Black men get longer federal sentences for the same crimes than white men, black children are judged by preschool teachers to be misbehaving when acting age-appropriately and thus get suspended or worse, people with black-sounding names and identical resumes don't get interviews while those with white-sounding names do, and so on. All of those facts are from research findings or analysis of federal data.

But here's a local story that's not from research or data: it's about a lawsuit filed against Green & White, a Twin Cities taxicab company. Black drivers are suing the company, claiming it steers its most lucrative work to white drivers.

The cab company has corporate accounts that include longer trips, which pay a more consistent amount of money than waiting for a fare on the street or at the airport. One former Green & White driver, Aaron Shaw II, says the "company's leasing manager told him that corporate accounts were available only to 'American drivers'" — which was then further explained to mean "white drivers."

Many of the black cab drivers in the Twin Cities are African immigrants. And while it's illegal and immoral to have a rule restricting these accounts to "American drivers" in the first place, it's unspeakably vile to decree that only a white driver is "American," when it's quite likely that a non-immigrant black driver has roots that go back a lot farther in this country than the average white driver. (I can't even express that well, it makes me so angry.) It's another version of seeing black people as perpetual outsiders, when in fact their enslaved ancestors were the ones who built much of this country and its prosperity.

Here are some details from the story that highlight how screwed up this is:

In his seven years at Green & White, Shaw said that he made just one trip with Canadian Pacific [railroad] workers, but he said that happened because a white driver was unable to take the assignment and asked him to fill in. He said Green & White asked him to turn his passengers over to another driver about an hour into the trip when managers found out about the swap.

“You could tell when the guys got in the car that I wasn’t supposed to be there,” Shaw said in an interview, noting that all three of the passengers were white.
The railroad work is key, because they use the cabs for long trips "running...employees to worksites in neighboring states" with fares as much as $700. And then there's the Red Cross account:
Red Cross uses Green & White to deliver blood products to hospitals in Minnesota and surrounding states when trained Red Cross volunteers or employees are unavailable...

Green & White drivers said Red Cross uses the company’s services every day, sometimes with multiple deliveries, with fares ranging from $50 to $400. Drivers said they are aware of just one black driver at Green & White who has done work for Red Cross, even though they said most of the company’s drivers are black.

Drivers who complained said they were told they didn’t meet some unstated criteria of the Red Cross.

Red Cross, however, said it did not request specific drivers.
And here's a fact I never knew: Green & White drivers pay the company $500 a week to lease a car, so cutting them out of the more lucrative business has real effects:
Black drivers said they sometimes failed to make enough in a week to cover their lease payments, but they said white drivers were frequently earning as much as $1,000 to $1,500 a week. Many black drivers have left the company in frustration, they said.
This purposeful undermining of black drivers' ability to earn a living is one small part of the undermining of black wealth that has been the American story for centuries.

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