independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Apartheid alive and well on taxi ranks

'Black' ranks emerged as African drivers were banished from sharing with Irish drivers, writes Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

ON the Irish Taxi Drivers' Forum, a website where cab drivers and their passengers sound off about whatever is eating them, there has been a long-running debate about the large number of Nigerians who now hold taxi plates.

For the most part, the discussion has been a reasonable one, though occasionally the exchanges become distinctly racist.

The main complaint is that there are simply too many taxi licences out there generally -- especially in Dublin -- making it near impossible for all drivers, whatever the colour of their skin, to make a decent living.

One contributor calling himself "ratcatcher"observed: "There is a lot of Africans and yes, the reason is that it's a low skills trade that requires no investment.

"There are, of course, social reasons for their concentration around Dublin and the other cities. While cities are increasingly becoming wonderful melting pots of diverse cultures, the inhabitants of rural towns tend to be far less progressive or tolerant in their attitudes."

But he received a tart response from another driver.

"The State created a problem by leaving borders undefended and [the] taxi game was used as safety valve for what happened when the dodgy asylum seeking floodgates opened," he said.

But isn't the fact that the debate is actually taking place a signal of latent racism against just a certain cohort of black Africans?

One cannot help thinking that there is no such debate about whether there are too many black Africans in our hospitals, too many black African nurses, too many African doctors, radiologists and obstetricians.

And on the street, the attitude of the old-school Dublin taxi driver to the "competition" from black African drivers is frequently one of suspicion and in some cases blatant racism and hostility. In the last year, I overheard two white taxi drivers enjoying the banter at a rank not far from the office.

They were obviously old friends and when one arrived at the rank with a brand new car, his friend began to jeer him loudly from across the street.

"Jesus, you must be in the money. You're not parking that here showing us up. You can F*** Off over to the black rank!"

Oh how they laughed.

Of course it was blatantly racist. And of course it also told another story. The exchange between the two white drivers suggests that black African drivers have to endure taxi rank apartheid.

On the weekend that Mandela is buried, it is a sad indictment of festering and malignant prejudice against those of a different colour.

Irish Independent

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