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Taxi Drivers At LAX Will Get Harsher Penalties For Being Racist

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(Photo by Ross Reyes via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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L.A. City Council agreed yesterday to enforce stricter penalties for taxi drivers who discriminate against potential passengers at LAX based on race. A pair of black police officers recently conducted an undercover sting to see how frequently they were rejected by taxi drivers at LAX, the L.A. Times reports. Out of the 25 rides they requested, 5 were refused, according to a release from L.A. Councilmember Bob Blumenfield's office.

Blumenfield has proposed to continue undercover operations for a year, and the Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce, and Trade Committee—which Blumenfield chairs—has proposed to ban any driver found to reject a passenger based on race from working at the airport for a year. The Council will vote on this next week.

The Council was inspired to act by an essay from former MLB player Doug Glanville.

Last year, Glanville said that he was turned down by a cab driver at LAX. Glanville travels frequently for his job as a baseball analyst for ESPN and said he has had issues getting a cab in several cities, including D.C. and Chicago. In Los Angles, he said he flew into LAX and planned on sharing a cab with ESPN cameraman Joe Vanderford, who is white. He said a cab was secured for them by an Airport Taxi Supervisors (ATS) rep, and that the driver was nice to Vanderford, but told him him to take the bus instead. Glanville said that they eventually secured a ride in another cab, but that a black airport employee told him that this was a common occurrence. Glanville ultimately decided not to file a complaint because he felt like he couldn't positively identify the driver based on a photo ATS provided, but did write about this experience in The Atlantic. Glanville noted that many of the taxi drivers who refuse him rides, including the driver at LAX, are not white and are immigrant.

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"On the one hand, it was sobering to see how newcomers to the United States could not only adopt longstanding racial and institutional biases, but entrench them even further. On the other hand, I knew that I was in a position of power, and that I was in danger of making assumptions myself," he said.

In this particular instance, the driver claimed that he did not deny Glanville based on race, but that he was confused about which passengers were in line first. However, airport officials concluded that Glanville’s account was accurate and banned the driver from working at the airport for a year and throughout the city for two weeks.

L.A. taxi administrator Tom Drischler said that the undercover sting led him to believe that racism among taxi drivers is a "systemic problem that needs to be dealt with as strongly as possible."