I have a regular taxi customer who weighs in at about 6’2”, 200 lbs. For his size, he’s not svelte; he's not flabby. Beefy is the word. I’m not quite sure of the relevance of his appearance to this story, but nonetheless.
A couple nights ago, he calls for a trip to the downtown bars. I arrive at his condo, and it’s the guy and five of his friends. My customer is the smallest of the five. This is not an exaggeration; they look like teammates on a rugby squad.
I say, “Let’s put the biggest dude in the front, the other four squeeze into the back,” and they follow this suggestion.
As soon as we’re underway, the inevitable razzing begins – kind of like free-for-all ragging. This is fine. I’m a guy; I understand how men show camaraderie and affection: by pointing out each other’s faults, inadequacies, poor hygiene, sexual failures – all that good stuff and more. Except, with this group, it quickly devolves to “nigger” this and “fag” that.
I hate it. This type of casual racism and homophobia hits me viscerally, like a want to strike out, puke, cry, scream.
So, we motor along towards downtown. I’m driving way faster than is usual for me, because I want this fare to end and I’m suppressing a knot in my stomach. But, I’m saying nothing.
Here’s where I draw the line: if customers in my cab are spewing hate, I stay out of it unless they try to involve me in it. In that case, I tell them my views: that gay people or black people or whomever are our brothers and sisters and I take it personally when they are smeared and attacked in this way. So, leave me out of the discussion.
I’m thinking that I need to draw a new line, one closer to the bone. It’s feeling like remaining mum is endorsing or, at least, acquiescing to the hate. And, given the state of the world in 2007, perhaps it’s too late in the game to let it ride.
What do you think? What do you do?