News & Politics

Caught On Video: DC Taxi Commission Discriminates Against Foreign Speakers at Public Meeting

Commission bars speakers with accents, unless they provide written text.

Washington D.C. taxi drivers recently joined the Teamsters Union, and judging by this video released by the union, they’ll need all the help they can get considering the questionable practices of the city’s Taxicab Commission. 

In the video, Taxicab Commission chairman, Ron Linton, interrupts a speaker to notify him that if he is to address the room, he must have a written copy of his remarks or else he will not be allowed to speak. When pressed as to why, another member of the commission explains that the commission requires a written testimony because “a lot of [their] cab drivers have difficulty with the language. It’s very difficult for [them] to understand some of the people that testify.” The solution proposed by the commission as a result was to make them write down their entire testimony verbatim, or be barred from speaking at all.

By the end of the video, which features uncomfortable bouts of confusion by the speakers—who seem to be learning about the rule for the first time—the commission’s discriminatory practices are brought to light most clearly, when an American-born cab driver is able to speak to the commission, without any written transcript. The commissioners blatantly disregard their own ruling by telling him to go ahead and speak because they are able to “understand [him].”

Not long after, The Washington D.C. Taxi Operators Association immediately sent a letter to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray about the discriminatory practice meant to silence minorities without a strong command of the English language, but with equally vital things to say. Luckily, the video goes a long way in saying everything that they were not permitted to.



Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

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