Editor's note: Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary appears on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while working for the North County Times.
“They gotta learn some phone manners,” he said, angrily scrawling the address of his next fare. “They call me and then they’re talking to somebody else — in Spanish! — and I’m saying, ‘Hello, Fallbrook Taxi, Fallbrook Taxi, Fallbrook Taxi!’”
My taxi driver ended his rant with a snort and a “How ya doing?” his nicotine-stained fingertips drumming the steering wheel while he dredged a glob of phlegm from his depths.
Meanwhile, my fanny puckering at his comment, I reached for a response, any response other than telling him to pull over and let me out.
Abandoning my ride would have satisfied my desire to escape his bigotry and deprive him of my $2.50 fare, but it also would have delayed my return to my desk, and, since delving into school full time, I schedule my days in 15-minute intervals. I couldn’t afford to lose an entire unit of homework time to the careless ramblings of a tobacco-addled bigot. So I went with a compromise.
“That behavior is not restricted to any particular ethnicity or race,” I said, staying firmly buckled into my seat. “My lily-white, U.S.-born family does that all the time.”
But I’d spoken too soon: There was more to his rant.
“And babies hanging off the boob,” he spat, “screaming in my ear.”
I reached for the door handle, hesitated and remembered my primary goal for the day: to use every waking moment to study for midterms, not to save the world or myself from idiots. That would have to wait.
But that word he used, “boob,” that stuck in my craw. His delivery had transformed it from a bit of comic slang to a sexist, racist slur. He was talking about female body parts, intimate parts to which he would never be granted access — surely not by me or the Latinas he targeted with his ire. His only way to lay any claim to said breasts was to belittle them and thus lend import to his job as a taxi driver in the bucolic burg of Fallbrook. What a boob!
I couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out. “Hey there, guy. I nursed my daughter in public — for more than two years! And, by the way, she’s Latina.”
He fell silent, drumming the wheel, waiting for my exit so he could light up again in the non-smoking cab.
I welcomed his silence, stared out the window and thought of all the places I’d dragged my child “hanging off the boob” -- the restaurants and demonstrations, the public hearings and backyard barbecues, the campaign trails and grocery stores. Oh, a few folks freaked, but the vast majority of people endorsed us with a smile or a nod.
But I wondered: Had our skin been a little darker, would we have been reviled instead, banned for being brown and female and, thus, boob-feeding, not breast-feeding?
And I wondered if I would have been as annoyed with the driver if my daughter were not Latina.
Or if I were not a woman.
Or if the taxi driver had not been male and white.
Or if it were not March, National Women’s History Month.
Or if the world were not still so riddled with hateful anti-woman, anti-other-than-heterosexual-white attitudes and policies and laws and institutions.
He pulled up to my house, looked at the same-sex marriage sign on my gate and said, “So, you support the right to marry, do you?” and followed that with another productive hack of phlegm.
“Yes,” I said, “I do,” and exited the taxi, wondering where his loogie landed.
Sometimes it’s a real challenge to travel through a world where white male taxi drivers think a white female fare is all ears for his sexist, racist sputum.
Where U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts doesn’t recognize the profanity in calling a homosexual a “fag.”
Where the cultish Christians of Westboro Baptist Church* enjoy disrupting funerals with signs that read “God Hates Fags,” “God Hates Jews” and “Thank God for Dead Solders.”
It’s enough to make a gal mad. In fact, when I first told my kiddo I had selected women’s studies as my college major, she rolled her eyes and warned me, “You’re just going to get more angry than you already are.”
And she’s right. But you know what? I wish I were even more angry than that. I wish more people were even more angry, angry enough to get out of the taxi and hoof it home. Because in the United States, idiots can freely say whatever horrendous things they can think — until they slander or libel someone — and, in the meantime, our most effective recourse is to aim for their wallets.
So I won’t be using Fallbrook Taxi until their drivers are trained to keep their prejudicial thoughts to themselves while they’re driving on my dime.
I will continue to call The Koala’s advertisers to ask them to stop supporting homophobic, misogynistic, pedophilic, racist and sexist content (see numbers below).
And I’ll certainly never put a sawbuck in Westboro’s collection plate.
How to fight The Koala
Call The Koala advertisers to ask them to withdraw their support of the tabloid’s homophobic, misogynistic, pedophilic, racist and sexist content.
Goldfingers Gentlemen’s Club, owner Aaron Goldberg: (858) 530-0766
The Dank Bank: (619) 589-0117 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The General Store Coop: (858) 450-3080 or email@example.com
PB Entertainment, owners Mike Ettenberg and Jason Sampas: (858) 598-7759
Porter’s Pub & Grill: (858) 587-4828
Spirits of St. Germaine: (858) 455-1414
Therapeutic Healing Cooperative: (619) 717-8060 or (866) 378-1726
More on Westboro haters
*NOTE: Although I’m not a fan of website hacking, it is divinely interesting to note that a couple of notorious hackers, Anonymous and The Jester, have gone after the Westboro Baptist Church websites, some of which have been down since Feb. 24 and remain down as of publication of this column:
Interview with Anonymous representative and Westboro Baptist Church representative, Shirley Phelps-Roper: