Last weekend, I stayed with my mom in center city and took a cab by myself back to Temple. When I got in the cab, the driver told me that he had just dumped his last passengers. Not really sure what he meant, I let out a slight laugh. He responded, “no really. I told them to get out. The lady was a bitch. I wanted to run her over.” This time, I did not laugh. For he obviously wasn’t satisfied with that response last time, and I surely didn’t want to be the next “bitch” he tried to run over. “Oh,” I said, trying to calm myself by focusing on the city life far outside the walls of the cab. He looked back and smiled at me and said, “Yah. But it was kind of bad, because her son couldn’t walk. I told her she should have gotten an abortion. Was that mean?” Upon not receiving an answer, he looked back at me and said, “Come on. Tell me it was mean. I don’t care. It’s true.” What I wanted to tell him was that he disgusted me. That that disabled boy’s little finger was probably worth way more than he would ever be. That I would much rather be in any other cab in Philadelphia right now than his. Yet, my anxiety surrounding the driver far outweighed any other emotions I had towards him as a person, and I responded, “Yah, I guess that was kind of mean.”
That following Tuesday, I leaned over in class and told my friend sitting next to me about the conversation. She told me that I should relay it to the class. But for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to raise my hand. My friend was right; it was completely applicable to our class. In fact, the incident seemed so strangely fitting that it was as if God had directly plopped the man down right into the driver seat of my cab. However, I couldn’t raise my hand. It isn’t until now that I am typing this blog that I have realized why. The truth is, the conversation was completely disheartening for me. It was so disheartening, that I almost wanted to pretend that I had never met the guy. In erasing his memory from my mind, maybe it would also erase such terrible ignorance, superiority, and bigotry from the world. Even though we have spent several weeks discussing such discrimination that still exists in the world, I guess I still always felt like it was getting better. That such extremist views no longer existed outside the pages of history books. Part of me wonders whether or not the cab driver would have shared such comments with me had my mother or any other adult been in the car. Yet, even if kept to himself, it wouldn’t have mattered. What he voiced to me is still the opinion that he holds towards all disabled people. And if he has this opinion, who’s to say that many others don’t share his same beliefs? What I thought would be a quiet ride back to my dorm, ended up being a truly eye opening experience that illustrated the great wall of misunderstanding and intolerance that continues to separate the non disabled from the disabled. We still have a long ways to go as a society until those with disabilities receive the equal rights that they deserve. And these rights will not be granted through remaining silent.