Sonia Martinez of Denver, CO has taken the public by storm after reporting yet another case of racial discrimination. As part of the Facebook group “Uber’s Woman Driving Network”, Martinez was attacked by Rene Hunter, another alleged Uber client, concerning her identity as a Muslim Driver for Uber. Her post containing racist sentiments has gone viral, spreading across Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Reditt, and many other forums. Here, she shares her thoughts concerning the recent incident.
MuslimGirl: How exactly did it initiate? Did the women express any hate towards you or perhaps strike conversation?
Martinez: I first encountered this woman in a Facebook group called “Uber Woman’s Driving Network.” She is believed to be a driver, however, I am unsure whether she is or not. I joined that group to connect with other woman drivers so we can discuss issues and strategies so I can become a better driver. I was not at all prepared to encounter a woman who would have a problem with me being Muslim, and wearing hijab while I drive. On a post in this group, I was talking about how passengers are surprised to learn that I am of Spanish and Native American Heritage, I’m Muslim, I am not a foreigner, I speak primarily English, and I was born and raised in Colorado.
She commented on this post asking me if I am even allowed to drive as a Muslim. I responded by telling her that yes I am because it is legal for women to drive in the USA, and Muslim women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. She then asked me if I wear a headscarf while I drive. I responded by telling her that yes, I do. She responded by telling me, “unbelievable, you are blocked.” I had no further interaction with her on Facebook because she blocked me after that. She then went on to send the message that you have seen to the admin of that group. The admin then shared the screenshot of the message with the group, and banned her from returning to the group.
Have you experienced such an incident previously?
No, I have not. I’ve been working as a driver for 5 months, and not any of my passengers or people online I have encountered have complained about me being a driver, and being Muslim or wearing hijab while I drive. Passengers have asked me out of curiosity how I am able to drive if I am Muslim, and why I wear a headscarf– but everyone has always been very kind and respectful to me. I worry about passengers cancelling rides when they see that I am wearing hijab, but I have no way of knowing if that has happened or not.
Her attacks on your husband seem quite ignorant. What do you have to say about that?
I agree, her attacks on my husband are laughable and ignorant considering she has no idea who he is. My husband is Muslim, and he is from Morocco. He is not a US citizen yet, but he has a permanent visa. She has no idea what his views on anything are, so she has no right to judge him based on simply being my husband. It also appears that she has no idea how immigration in the US works because National Security is monitoring us at all times, and can come into our house any time they want, and question us being that my husband only has a permanent visa, and is not a citizen. Her assumptions about my husband are completely baseless, and it’s unfortunate when people hold these views about immigrants without knowing anything about them.
Do you think people in and around your area hold similar views or are they accepting of Islam?
This woman is from North Carolina, and I am in Denver, Colorado, so I am unsure if people in her area hold similar views, but considering that 3 Muslims were murdered there recently over a parking spot, I imagine there’s a possibility there’s some intolerance over there. The area where I live seems to be accepting of Muslims. I’m unsure how they feel about Islam in particular, but the Non-Muslims in our neighborhood are very friendly to us, and appear to be accepting. We live by the largest masjid in Colorado, The Colorado Muslim Society, and there are many Muslims in this area. We moved to this area for that reason because I know people in Colorado outside of Denver in surrounding suburban areas can be intolerant of Muslims. I love where I live, and I always feel safe and respected here.
Women hijabi drivers are few and far between. Have you had good responses so far, if at all? Has Uber also treated you fairly?
I had not met any hijabi drivers before this incident happened. After my story had been shared online, I received messages from hijabi drivers who offered support, and shared their experiences with me. I also met hijabi sisters who told me that they wanted to drive for Uber, but they were scared because they wear hijab, but that they wanted to learn more about doing it. I have received an incredible amount of support from many different people from around the world regarding this incident. I have received a few negative responses from people siding with her, and claiming that I have not been harmed by what she has done– but most have been positive. I contacted Uber immediately after I learned what she had said because I was afraid she was going to contact them, and possibly lie to them about me in order to try to get me fired. Uber has been incredibly supportive of me. I know many Muslims work for them, so I was glad to receive positive feedback from them. They told me that they care about my safety, and they will conduct a full investigation on her.
What actions have been taken since your post went viral?
She has not contacted me any further, and I have not contacted her either. I only hope that she learns a valuable lesson through this experience, and I hope that she will learn that my right to wear hijab at work is protected by the U.S. Constitution. I have learned that she works as a real estate agent, so I hope that she is not discriminating against Muslims who are interested in buying homes in North Carolina. I know that people have contacted the agency she works for, and they have showed them what she said about me, so they are aware of the views she has on Muslims.