In a personal essay for the Hufffington Post, Ama Yawson reflects on her own experiences with stereotyping and on the public reaction to the Trayvon Martin case to conclude that the potential for racial prejudice dwells within all of us.
As an adult, I have always known that criminals and perverts come in all colors, races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. But that knowledge did not prevent me from expecting to have an interesting cultural conversation about South Asian politics and the Sikh religion one night when I entered the gypsy cab of a skinny, 60-something, South Asian cab driver with a turban on his head. I was shocked when the cab driver started discussing pornographic video scenes in graphic detail, told me that his penis was ten inches long and then looked at me and said, “so what are we going to do right now” while driving 50 miles per hour on the Belt Parkway East. I could not believe what was happening. I tried to recall guidance that I had learned in Women Studies courses in college about what to do in case of a potential sexual assault. I yelled, “Nothing! We are not doing anything! Let me out of this car!” I proceeded to ramble out my entire life history which included the year of my birth, my education and my family background in hopes that something would connect with the conscience of the cab driver. It worked. He told me that one of his daughters was born in the same year that I was born and that we were both twenty-five years old. He apologized and said that he thought I was like the 17 year-old black girls that he pays $5 to “suck his dick.” He was most likely referring to the significant number of African-American teenage girls who are victims of sex trafficking in New York City. He got off the highway and let me out of the cab.
I was prejudiced. I saw a skinny and old South Asian man with a turban and thought that he would be harmless and culturally interesting. He was prejudiced. He saw me, a young black woman at a train station at night, and immediately thought that I was a prostitute despite the fact that I had on a knee-length wool coat, stockings, professional black pumps, and a large briefcase. In reality, I was returning home at a late hour from my job as a telecom equity research associate at a boutique investment bank because I stayed at work to study for the GMAT and LSAT.
Read Ama Yawson’s entire piece at the Huffington Post.