A drunken passenger allegedly ripped a Sikh taxi driver’s turban off his head and stole it after a confrontational New York City cab ride which left the driver fearing for his life.
“I’m so afraid. I don’t want to work,” Harkirat Singh, the 25-year-old driver, told the New York Daily News.
Singh arrived in the U.S. from India three years ago. He works the overnight shift driving his family’s cab, PIX 11 reported, so there was nothing unusual when he picked up four passengers he said appeared drunk near Midtown Manhattan at around 5 a.m. on Sunday morning.
But things quickly spiraled out of control. The group had entered a Bronx address as their destination, but allegedly started complaining that Singh had taken them to the wrong place. They couldn’t agree on where to go next, and they started shouting slurs and banging on the taxi partition, Singh told the Daily News.
Singh said that, when he asked the unruly group to leave his cab, they tried to leave without paying their $41.76 fare. One woman finally paid after Singh called 911, but then a man allegedly lunged back into the cab through the passenger side door and tried to smash the meter before punching him in the arm.
Then, Singh said the man snatched his turban, which he has worn in public since he was a child, off his head and ran away.
“He took my turban and said ‘Now you see, Ali Baba,’ Singh told PIX 11. “Fucking Ali Baba.”
The driver managed to snap a cell phone photo of the alleged attacker which he handed over to the police, who are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Feeling exposed and vulnerable without his turban, Singh said he started crying as he waited for NYPD to arrive.
Police are describing the assailant as a Hispanic, clean-shaven man in his 20s, standing around 5-foot-9 and weighing about 160.
As the investigation continues, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted his support for Singh, saying, “You are welcome here.”
As nice as that would be to believe, another incident is probably much more indicative of the current climate for people of color in America. While PIX11 was recording its on-camera interview with Singh, a random New Yorker driving by shouted slurs in his direction, which can be faintly heard on the station’s video.
Without missing a beat, Singh calmly responded: “They have to respect each other. There is no difference between the colors.”