Kenitra - It was a Friday night, a weekend night, which is always a busy night. I was driving three young guys from the Hilton in Chicago downtown to the Wrigley Field, home of Chicago Cubs and one of the city’s unique landmarks. On our way, they start whispering things, bad things. “Hey, you Taliban. Hey, you terrorist.” Of course, they said a lot of things. Their tones, words and gestures told of a story. It was a story I have known throughout my career driving a cab in Chicago. A story of ethnocentrism, racial profiling and humiliation… not all of the people of course, some of them were the nicest people one can ever meet.
Kenitra – It was a Friday night, a weekend night, which is always a busy night. I was driving three young guys from the Hilton in Chicago downtown to the Wrigley Field, home of Chicago Cubs and one of the city’s unique landmarks. On our way, they start whispering things, bad things. “Hey, you Taliban. Hey, you terrorist.” Of course, they said a lot of things. Their tones, words and gestures told of a story. It was a story I have known throughout my career driving a cab in Chicago. A story of ethnocentrism, racial profiling and humiliation… not all of the people of course, some of them were the nicest people one can ever meet.
I stopped on the corner of La Salle Drive and Clark Street, picked up my phone and dialed 911. The officer answered, “This 911 how I can help you?”
I replied, “I am a cab driver. I had some guys who went too far on their remarks and comments.”
“They are calling me a f***ing Arab idiot, a terrorist, a Bin Laden. I want a policeman on the scene. I just can’t drive them anywhere.”
“What is your location please?”
“On the corner of “
“What color is your cab and what number?”
“2367, a Blue Ribbon cab, a white one.”
“We are sending police, stay there.”
I locked the doors; I knew I was safe. They started saying things again. This time I chose to stay calm and just wait. With this kind of people, it is always better to keep calm. A few minutes later, two white cops got off their Chevy police car and approached my car. I rolled both front and back windows down…
The officer said, “What is wrong down here?”
I answered, “These guys were like .”
One of the two officers asked them to get off the cab and got them few steps away from me while I was recounting what happened. I could tell he was not listening carefully. It sounded like he didn’t care that much about what I had gone through or how bad I had felt. He walked away to the others and came back. The officer asked, “How much they owe you man?”
I replied, “Sir, I didn’t call for that purpose. You know what happened. You know what they said and how they treated me.”
“It is not my business though. It is called a civil right, a constitutional right. It is like they are free.”
“ I am a public chauffeur sir. I am on duty.”
“Yah, I know. I got you. Nothing I can do though.”
“So basically you telling me just go. They are free to call me whatever they want, they can humiliate me as they like and I can do nothing. You can do nothing. It is a civil right. Isn’t it?”
“So I guess I can call you an idiot, a terrorist and fear nothing.”
“Get the f*** off, right now.”
“I called to press charges on those guys and now you telling me to get off, right?”
“Get the f*** off”
“I need your badge number. I need your police ID number sir.”
The two cops got on their Chevy and went off. The guys crossed the street in joy and pleasure. It was a sad moment. I felt down, so down. Why? Why can someone act in such a manner. I looked around the streets and began to reflect on everything. I needed a moment of peace while holding back tears. I could see the lights coming out of the Lincoln hotel, a new one just where the historic Lincoln Ave crosses Wells. Wells marks the old town neighborhood, with its fancy restaurants, bars and theaters and of course its old Victorian styles houses. From the famous Old Town Pour House night club to the Wells restaurant to the amazing Second City theater, a man can just wonder in full amazement and excitement. This is why Wells is my favorite street to drive. What matters most at these moments were my reflections on what and why it happened.
I drove my car few blocks away to the corner of Armitage Avenue and Racine Street, a nice area where many Chicagoans like to go and have fun; so calm and romantic. I pulled over to the side, turned off my car, picked up my phone and called 911 again.
A police officer said,” this is 911, how can I help you?”
“I am a cab driver Sir. I need a police supervisor on the scene.”
25 minutes later, a white police supervisor came out of his Ford Crown Victoria car and walked across the street to me. He asked, “What is wrong man?”
I told him every single detail of what had happened; from the moment I picked up the guys to the moment the two cops drove away. He was like, “Ok, you know I can do nothing. Things happen. Plus, you don’t have the cop’s ID number. I am sorry.”
“Hold on Sir, I wrote down the Chevy reference number. Here it is.”
“Oh, ok. Let us see what we can do.” He got my Public Chauffeur License, my Driver License and my cab lease and asked me to wait a minute. “Here are your papers and a police report of the incident. Within a few weeks from now, someone should contact you from the Chicago Police Department for further actions. Have a nice night.”
Four weeks later, I received a letter from CPD stating that their Ethics Committee was investigating the incident and that I should receive further information in the following weeks. Honestly, I thought to myself, wow, this is amazing. This is what we can call a “democratic” society where rights are protected. Surprisingly, two months later I received a letter from the same department. However, that time, it was different, shocking and shameful. The paper read, “After our investigation… We couldn’t identify the officer involved in that incident, since there were two cops in the car that day.”
Is this fair? Is this truly democratic? You can make your own assumptions.
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