Race for a Cab: When Hailing a Ride Isn't So Black and White

gma race

With a black first family and fewer people citing racism as a "big problem," how much have the country's race relations changed?

In the second part of a three-part series called "Black and White Now," "Good Morning America" tackles racial profiling. Click here to see the first part in the series about race relations.

VIDEO: According to a poll 75 percent of blacks have experienced discrimination.
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It's a highly publicized issue with a highly visible face. Nearly a decade ago, actor Danny Glover took on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, saying five yellow cabs in a single day refused to stop for him because he was black.

"I don't expect to have a taxi. I've been conditioned to think that someone is not going to stop for me," Glover said of the racial profiling incident.

His formal complaint sparked a nationwide debate about subtle and not so subtle racism in public places like on city streets, in restaurants and shopping malls.

That was November 1999. "GMA" wanted to see how much things had changed in 2009 and enlisted the help of well-known black attorney Christopher Darden, who was the prosecutor in O.J. Simpson's murder trail.

"Obviously there are situations where almost all of us can all agree that someone's actions are racially motivated, but racism and discrimination are typically practiced in a subtle way," said Darden, who is now a successful defense attorney.

Our Experiment: Hailing a Cab

With "GMA's" cameras rolling, Darden was easily able to hail a New York City cab in broad daylight.

"I got the first cab and there was a second one that was trying to squeeze that one out of the way," he said.

But his luck changed when day turned to night. After the sun went down, two cabs passed him. The third cab, which was driven by a black man, stopped and picked him up.

"There you have it. I guess it's true what they say, 'After dark, it's hard to catch a cab to Harlem,'" Darden said.

Black vs. White

In "GMA's" second experiment, a black man and a Caucasian man were tapped to hail cabs. They hailed more than 40 cabs and during the day neither man had a problem. But as the sun went down, the first taxi the men tried to get passed directly by the black man to pick up the Caucasian man.

Then minutes later, it happened again with another cab. It was the same story uptown and three out of the 10 cabs hailed at night passed up the black man.

"At night they will slow down to pick me up and realize that I'm a person of color then suddenly flip the switch; they're out of service and will drive on. And I've seen it as far as they will go to the next block and pick someone else up within clear sight," said Briscoe Savoy, a Brooklyn, N.Y., resident who is a photographer and participated in the experiment.

When "GMA" told the New York City Taxi Commission what happened, it issued the following statement:

"Unfortunately, the problem of taxicab drivers prejudging certain fares still exists, though to a lesser extent than in years past," the statement said.

The commission said it now puts cabbies through a rigorous training, which includes service refusal issues as well as the continuing education class they must take after their probationary year. It said cabbies follow the rules "97 percent" of the time.

Shopping While Black

It isn't just blacks who feel discrimination. A recent Gallup survey shows 15 percent of all workers, of all races, say they have been subject to some form of discrimination.

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