toward a college degree. This workednout fine, for about a year, until the gangnfights began again because of my tattoo.nTTie Disciples at this prison told me thatnif I didn’t get the tattoo removed, theynwere going to burn it off me. After fournfights with gang members, I talked to thenprison officers and warden and told themnthe reasons for the fights and asked if Incould have the star removed. I was toldnthat I would have to pay for the removalnmyself, which I said I could arrange for,nbut instead of following through with this,nthey had me transferred to a maximumsecuritynprison.nHere the same problems happened,nthe same fights for the same reason. Thisntime, when I refused to rejoin the gang,nmembers began taking things out of myncell when I was gone, and after whatnlittle stuff I had was all stolen,, like myntennis shoes and blue jeans which peoplenhad bought for me as Christmas andnbirthday presents, they came after me.nOne day they arranged with an officer tonhave all of the cell doors on my gallerynopen at once, so they could roll me. I hadna pass to get some clean sheets fromnthe laundry and while coming back to myncell all the doors opened up and aboutnsixty guys jumped out. I really don’t knownwhat happened next, except that someonencame up behind me, grabbed me bynthe neck, and when I woke up I found Inhad been beaten. My face was cut badly,nover and under my eyes, my nose wasnbroken, I had a concussion and bmisednribs, and my clothes had to be thrownnaway because they were covered withnblood. After two weeks in a city hospital,neverything came back to me and I identifiednthe guys I could remember. I wasnput back in p.c. and made to take a liendetector test to prove I really didn’t havenanything to do with the riot, which Inpassed. They then transferred me backnto a medium-security facility, where I amnnow.nBecause of the six-point star on mynarm, all the officers here think I’m stillnpart of the gang and all the gang membersngive me problems because I’m not.nI spend most of the time by myself, justntrying to survive and stay out of trouble.nI’m currently back in p.c. because thenadministration says both the Disciplesnand the Vice Lords, the rival gang, wantnme dead. I’ve again asked the warden ifnI could get this tattoo removed, but so farnno answer. At times I wonder if itnwouldn’t be easier to rejoin the gang, butnthis would mean I would have to hurtnsomeone. The prison nurse put me onntranquilizers to calm my nerves, becausenI’m getting increasingly frustrated withnthis whole situation. I’m also enrollednin two college classes, and have a radionI can listen to so that, when I do get outnof p.c. I can stay inside my cell and havensomething to do other than mixing withnthe gangs. I could be released in 20nmonths, and with any luck. 111 survive thentime and have a chance to start my lifenover.nLetter FromnNew Yorknby Richard Irvingn Taxi Drivers andnMinority CrimenDriving a taxi in New York City is inextricablynlinked with the subject of race.nWhile it is true that no subject is morenvexatious for society as a whole, the taxindriver is forced to confront the issue inna way few others are. Though few NewnYorkers have not been victimized by blacknor Hispanic crime, it is the taxi driver whonstill has the lion’s share of horror storiesnto tell. Even other small businessmen,nmany of whom carry licensed handguns,nare not in quite the same position as thentaxi driver, who is prohibited by law fromncarrying a licensed firearm or anythingnelse that could be constmed as a weapon.nThis vulnerability to crime leads to annexpected and understandable set ofnbeliefs: as people who converse with themnknow, there are few drivers who could bencalled liberal.nWhen I started driving a medallion cabnabout ten years ago I was in the processnof abandoning my liberalism, but mynviews had not quite reached their presentnpessimistic state. I had by then lived innManhattan for several years and did notnconsider myself naive about its dangers.nBut, then, I had not yet been muggednand had had relatively limited contactnwith blacks. In those early days I wouldnstop for almost anyone who hailed me;nI didn’t know any better. I found thennight shift to be less demanding andnstressful than the day shift and, since Inwas leasing a taxi from a private owner,nwas working without the bulletproof partitionnseparating the front of the cabnnnfrom the back. But most of my fares proceedednwithout incident, and I began tonthink of it as almost a kind of game innwhich customers were forced to pay menin exchange for my driving them to theirndestination. My innocence still amazesnme, and I consider myself fortunate tonhave survived that period.nBlacks have become associated withnviolent crime to such an extent that evennbeing alone in a car with an unknown,nyoung black male sitting behind you cannbe a terrifying experience. If the blackncustomer were silent, my paranoia wouldngo to work and convince me that he wasnplotting to rob or kill me. I would takennote of his behavior, looking for clues.nHe’s whistling and gazing out the window.nThat seemed to me a good sign.nOr he’s reading a newspaper. That alsonwas encouraging. Sometimes when Inwas scared I would begin humming audiblynor tapping my fingers to the music ofnthe radio, hoping he would perceive menas a relaxed, simpatico fellow with muchnto live for and would shelve any plans fornmayhem. In a few cases, the combinationnof being in a bad neighborhood,nlate at night, with a silent young blacknman sitting behind me felt so ominousnthat when he simply paid me and departed,nthe same as anybody else, I felt Inhad been granted a reprieve or that I hadnused up one of my nine lives. If theynknew how terrified I had been, they nevernmentioned it.nNeedless to say, it took only a few incidentsnof this kind to make me more selectivenin choosing my customers. Butnunlike many white drivers, I continuednto pick up with some frequencynrespectable looking blacks. Black women,nat least, were as unthreatening asnwhite women and, as long as I wasnunafraid of my customer, and as long asnI felt that I was driving a reliable car, itndid not especially trouble me to drive intona minority neighborhood.nBut black men were another story.nDeciding which ones to stop for was antricky matter. When hailed by a blacknman, I would sometimes slow down andnscrutinize him, paying particular attentionnto his eyes, trying to discem whethernhe might be harmless. I still believe it isnpossible to leam a great deal about a personnby looking into his eyes, but consideringnthe stakes, I couldn’t afford tonbe wrong, even once. Sometimes I woddnactually stop for black men, only to getnsecond thoughts, and drive away justnas they reached the door. From theirnMAY 1992 /41n