A Life Long Taxi Ride
By Angely Morel
Growing up I was raised in a very cultured and loving community. However, when I began to interact with the world outside my community, I became aware of the many issues people like me face daily.
I waved my hand to hail down the vibrant green taxi, rushed in and proudly said, “Bendicion papi!” All my life I’ve been driven around by my dad’s green taxi. This taxi has transported me from one place to another and from opportunity to accomplishment. This car gives me and my family the freedom to experience new things like visiting different states and attending events around the city. It’s a representation of my family’s sacrifices. As an immigrant family, it has granted us the opportunity to have an income to support each other and our dreams.
On the day of my cousin’s graduation, my family approached the parking lot in our taxi. The white man in charge demanded that we park down the street. Sadly, we complied but afterwards we noticed that he let in every other car after us. I could feel that something wasn’t right. My parents were discussing the situation in the front seat and I could tell by their body language and their scrunched brows that they were upset. My sister and I looked at each other in silence, bothered at the situation. As the youngest person in the car, I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t doing anything about it, and why it all seemed normal to them. I asked, “Why didn’t we say anything to him?” They replied with excuses that failed to justify why we didn’t stick up for ourselves. My family told me to just leave it alone, but instead I got out of the car to confront the parking assistant. As I angrily walked towards him, I imagined humiliating him as he did my family. I clenched my fists, took a deep breath and instead I asked him, “If there was no available space for my family, why did you allow five other cars to access the parking lot after us?” Not once in that conversation did he look at me, and all he said was, “That was my first instinct.” As a woman of color, I felt extremely disrespected by the gatekeepers’ actions towards us. Those words enraged me and I expressed to him that it was not a coincidence that his first instinct was to refuse to admit a Hispanic family who can’t afford a regular car. The tension thickened as he dismissed the issue I presented him with, he looked down in silence.
I walked back into the car and my family stared at me with disappointment as if there was no point in doing anything. They silently continued to act as if nothing happened and started unpacking the gifts. The man slowly approached us and looked me directly in the eye and said, “Ma’am, we have one more spot for your family.” The parking space wasn’t the lesson in this situation. Instead, it was for the white man to be aware of his biases and to respect everyone regardless of their situation. For my family, it was to take up space as marginalized individuals. After this, a similar situation happened with getting into my sister’s university in our taxi, but this time it was my dad who rolled down his window. It was rewarding to witness my family speak up. Situations like this are why immigrants and minorities stay silent and are satisfied with so little, even when they deserve so much.
After this incident, I felt I had a new voice that needed to be amplified and a story to share. I want other immigrant families to learn that it’s not okay to be discriminated against and to stand up for themselves in an educated and nonviolent way. I now recognize how powerful my voice is when standing up for what is right. Whether it is on a podium or on the streets holding up a banner, I know I want to continue to speak out, continue to learn, and help others to advocate for themselves.
Angely Morel is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in New York, NY.