An uber-racist ride
It is rare that I take the time to give a negative review of a service. Normally, I’ll simply stop shopping somewhere if I’m not satisfied with their service. But, after a recent trip to California, I felt the need for others to learn of my offensive experience.
I went to LA for a long overdue visit with a friend. As you may know, I am not a fan of flying, so I have been putting off the crosscountry trip for quite some time. No longer armed with a legitimate excuse, and the fact that a second friend from Atlanta just moved there, I booked the trip to see them both.
These two women live on different sides of the city, so I decided to Uber my way to each and save them the gas money. Normally while on vacation I order Uber XL. Self-indulgent, maybe, but why not treat myself on vacation? And these cars are usually driven by limo drivers looking for extra cash. That means leather seats, bottled water and and excellent sound system. Not this time.
I called the Uber from downtown LA, standing in front of a Dollar Tree witnessing a domestic dispute between a man talking to himself on the sidewalk and a truck that kept u-turning to confront him on his way. As the entertainment concluded peacefully, my Uber driver arrived on the wrong side of the street. I waved him my way and got in ready to relay what I had just seen, but the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke choked my story away. As we headed to Burbank, I realized he also had no air conditioning and the trip would take about half an hour. So much for the extra cost getting me a better experience with Uber.
“Do you live around here?” he asked, a little surprised. “No, just visiting a friend,” I responded. “Where are you from?” he asked. “Atlanta.” “There are a lot of black people there.” This is the point where I would normally say something, however after I shook away the shock, I realized I was in an unfamiliar part of an unfamiliar city to me, so I decided to let it be. Then he continued, “I mean there are black people here, but there are a lot of black people in Atlanta.”
Stunned at this continued racism, and his assumption that this blond, white Southerner would automatically agree, I remained silent and didn’t speak the rest of the trip. No wonder he seemed surprised to pick me up where he did, since it was a predominantly black neighborhood. I’m sure he thought he was not only giving me a ride but rescuing me as well. I was physically nauseous by the time I got out of his vehicle, either from the smoke or my decision not to let this guy have it. Or both.
I definitely took the opportunity this time to let Uber know of my concerns with that ride. It is a dangerous game we are playing as a society to assume we know what others are thinking or feeling simply by the way we look, and this Uber driver took his own career in his hands by that assumption. Who would have thought the better conversation could come from the driver of that truck I saw while waiting. I picked the wrong vehicle to get into.
Melissa Carter is recognized as one of the first out radio personalities in Atlanta and has been heard over the years on B98.5 and Q100. In addition, she is a writer for the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter.