Written by Sammia Jallaq.
I am a female Uber driver. I am a Palestinian female Uber driver. I am a Muslim, Palestinian, female Uber driver. I am a Muslim, Palestinian, daughter of an Immigrant, female Uber driver.
A few weeks ago, word broke that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick joined Trump’s economic advisory board. News spread quickly, and more than 200,000 people deleted the ride share app Uber. There are so many different things to write about here. Let’s start with being a woman driving Uber.
People often ask me, “Are you afraid?” I laugh, and have always said no. I’m a tough cookie, I got this. That is, until a few weeks ago when I picked up a male passenger who had been drinking. He jumped in the front seat. Normally, I don’t allow anyone in the front seat if they are alone, but I thought it okay this time. I’m safe. I’m on campus, I thought.
I typically drive at the Ohio State University campus or the surrounding areas because I thought they were safer. He proved me wrong. In my own vehicle, my own space, I was violated. He threw his hand on my lap and began to stroke my right leg. I slapped him on his wrist and asked him to keep his hands to himself. I looked down at my phone and saw it was only a four-minute ride and began praying that it wouldn’t go any further.
As much as we wanted to boycott Uber, we needed to make sure that we also find ways to support our Muslim drivers and our families.
He asked me questions like if I was married or if I had a boyfriend. I lied and said yes I was married, but even if I wasn’t, that does not give another man permission to stroke my leg. He told me that maybe he had gotten the wrong female driver. Did he do this to all the women drivers? He threw his arm on my leg again and went all the way down my leg and in between my thigh. I froze. I wanted to scream. I quickly dropped him off and called the police.
I filed a report and contacted Uber. They responded quickly and banned him from ever using the app again. The court dates will follow. I shut off the app and told myself I would never drive Uber again. Then, it hit me — was I going to allow this pervert to stop me? Was I going to allow this man to scare off all women drivers? Hell, no! After about an hour I turned my app on again, but I made sure I bought pepper spray from the nearest store!
Being Palestinian makes me so proud, on the rear of my bumper I rock out a “Free Palestine” sticker. My family always tells me to remove it because I drive Uber and people will complain. Little do they know, I manage to bring up the topic of Palestine with EVERY passenger. It is my duty to make sure everyone knows the truth about Palestine. The feedback has been positive from my passengers, I have a 4.89 out of 5 star rating. I can’t change who I am and I want every passenger to know that a proud Palestinian is driving them around. I want to show them that Palestinians aren’t a threat.
Then, it hit me — was I going to allow this pervert to stop me? Was I going to allow this man to scare off all women drivers? Hell, no!
Being Muslim and the daughter of an immigrant made me concerned to drive for Uber when I found out the affiliation Uber had with Trump (#NotMyPresident!) In fact, most of the drivers here in Columbus are Immigrants, Muslims, or refugees! As much as I needed the income, I decided to delete my app and not drive for a week in solidarity with Muslims across in the world. I couldn’t find it in my heart to make money for a company that supported Trump. I worried more for my father, who drives Uber full time. Were his passengers going to treat him differently bc he was a “foreigner” or because he was brown? The #DeleteUber hashtag went viral.
At a protest we organized at the Columbus Airport last Sunday, I made sure to talk about boycotting Uber, but I also made sure that the crowd knew the people who drove for Uber. They were my people. My Muslim brothers and sisters. As much as we wanted to boycott Uber, we needed to make sure that we also find ways to support our Muslim drivers and our families. Rest assured, I told them that we would hold Uber accountable for their actions and that WE, the people would win!
I can’t change who I am and I want every passenger to know that a proud Palestinian is driving them around. I want to show them that Palestinians aren’t a threat.
Sure enough, a few days ago, Uber announced their CEO had dropped out from the board and that they had set aside 2 million dollars to help any of their Muslim drivers caught up in Trump’s Muslim ban. Today, they announced Uber would pay for the plane tickets for any immigrant who is a driver stuck at an airport. Though, we still have lots of work to do, this gives me hope. Remember, the people united will never be defeated. We will continue to hold Uber accountable and will keep a close eye on them.
To all my fellow women who drive Uber, be proud of who you are, be strong, don’t ever let a man stop you from making a better life for yourself. To all my fellow Muslim drivers, we stand with you. We thank you. You are welcome here. You are what America looks like!