Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Confessions of a Taxicab Driver

My friend Bill (who also happens to be the Executive Director of Colorado Progressive Coalition) wrote this neatly packaged and disturbing commentary about street level racism. It's that easy, nearly second-nature attitude that he captured. It's that attitude that doesn't give a damn about political correctness. That theme which is carefully woven through the article reminds that we haven't all found a place in our lives for all the people who live in proximity to us.

This is why racial disparity exists in our criminal justice system, even though no one in the system will admit to being the cog in the machine that allows it to happen.

Thanks for reminding me Bill.

Max (all first names in this article are pseudonyms) is a cheerful and proud grandfather, a religious conservative and traditional family man, a hard worker, and someone who, when annoyed, calls his African co-workers "niggers" and "monkeys."

Max's job - he's a taxi-cab driver who makes frequent airport trips to DIA - makes him one of our city's true ambassadors, welcoming business and pleasure travelers to our home.

With the Democratic National Convention approaching, Max and his fellow cab drivers will be responsible for many visitors' first and lasting impressions of Colorado. That can be a frightening thing. Colorado may not have the legacy of overt racism of some other states but we're not immune to it either. Much here passes beneath the surface.

Don't get me wrong. Max smiled in the rearview mirror for our 30-minute conversation en route to DIA and was very courteous and hospitable to me, a white guy in my 30s who has lived in Denver for 16 years.

It all started when I asked him how long he's been driving in Denver. An enthusiastic Denverite who moved here from the Pacific Northwest four years ago, he volunteered that he liked it here because it was a city with more white people, not like Detroit, Atlanta, or Chicago, where the large African-American population equals - according to him - more drugs and crime. He added that he is proud that his home nation has denied immigration to people of African descent "because they bring too much trouble."

I asked Max how he worked with the large number of cabbies in town who are hard-working Africans, from Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Sudan, Somalia, and across the continent. He cheerfully replied that he did OK most of the time, that the African immigrants were definitely better than African-Americans in his eyes. But when they did something to anger him, he would still call them "niggers" or "monkeys."

This was coming from a man who was driving for a taxi company owned by an African family.

I asked him whether he ever has black customers in his cab and he shook his head. Rarely, he said, and pointed out his opinion that "black and Mexican passengers often don't pay" and most of the time don't leave tips. The only blacks that were OK to him were "those who were adopted by white people."

Read the whole article at The Denver Post.