An uber-racist ride

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

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.

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