tourguide

The N-word, a Jewish slur, Ebola and the Black Plague: I got a racist guide for my Philly history tour

If it were under normal circumstances, I would have gotten off the horse-drawn carriage as soon as the tour guide dropped the N-word. But these were not normal circumstances.

Toward the end of October, we at Billy Penn decided it would be informative to take historical tours through the city and then fact-check them for accuracy, assuming that most of them would be correct or close to that. (You can see the fact-checks here.)

Being the new Philadelphian that I am, I was looking forward to taking a horse-drawn carriage ride around Old City and jogging my memory of those Revolutionary War-era lessons I’d learned since elementary school. I dragged a friend with me, dropped $55 to the 76 Carriage Co. and hopped on during the afternoon on Oct. 25.

What I got next was very few historical facts while we rode around Old City, circling Independence Hall and Society Hill. Instead, I got to listen to an explanation of the tour guide’s life, incredibly tangential and offensive comments, and I watched the guide’s manager scold him for driving the horse incorrectly — twice.

History!

The tour started on Fifth Street, then briefly east on Market. During that time, our tour guide Chris (no last name given!) shared that little-known nugget of Philadelphia wisdom… that compared the Ebola outbreak to the Black Plague. When the horse paused to, uh, relieve itself, Chris paused too, only to enlighten his trapped audience with this: “Chinese people really freak out about horse peeing. They go OOOHHHH.”

Wow, bad disease analogies AND racism. Double bargain. At this point, I was hoping that I just heard him wrong and continued taking notes while on the carriage ride. While we were driving down Fourth Street, a manager spotted our carriage. While we were trundling along, he was turned around and talking to us — with no eyes on the road. She scolded him from the sidewalk.

“She makes me nervous,” he said about his boss. “She’s scary. She yells at you like a kid.”

Moments later, a man in a shiny BMW was attempting to cut us off. Chris said loud enough that we could hear him: “What up, n—-a, we got a Bentley!” He pointed to Spot, the horse. We were horrified, but again, stayed on the carriage for the rest of the ride.

Here are a few other pearls of wisdom tossed out by Chris Nolastnamegiven, sprinkled throughout our 30-minute carriage ride:

  • “Philadelphia cab drivers, they don’t speak English, but they do know where to get some good ganja.”
  • While driving by Independence Hall, he poked fun at a “Chinese girl who can’t parallel park.”
  • “I am the most hated driver in the city of Philadelphia.”
  • “If you wanna do a drive-by shooting, the alleys are the best place.”
  • While driving by the National Museum of American Jewish History: “I wanted to know if they were really Jewish so I offered them $50.”
  • “Some people wonder how I’m still alive.”

76 Carriage Co. says it plans to investigate the comments made, but Manager Linda — who refused to provide her last name to Billy Penn — said the tour guide denies that the comments were made.

“Certainly that is not something that we advocate at this company at all,” Linda said. “We’re a very diverse company. We have a very diverse work force. That is not something we advocate at all.”

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