What I learned from my Jamaican Uber driver

We are closing in on one week since Donald Trump became the president elect, and needless to say, I am still trying to wrap my head around how exactly how we got to this point.

It’s very easy to say right now that we made a mistake. It’s easy to joke about how terrible of a president Donald Trump will be. But by doing so, we are completely discrediting and ignoring the more than 60 million people who voted for him.

I understand that people are angry. I understand that people want to take to the streets to voice their disapproval of the ideologies that have been expressed by the man we elected.

But we also must be pragmatic. Protesting only deepens the divide that has already been exposed. And doing it violently only sends the opposite message of the cause you wish to further.

election protest.jpg

Yes, we must remain vigilant. And yes, we must look out for each other — which has been nicely symbolized by people who are wearing safety pins on their shirts as an act of solidarity — but we also must understand one another.

Go home and talk to your family members. Talk to your friends. Talk to strangers on the street. And in my case, talk to your Uber drivers.

While visiting the swing state of North Carolina (which was a planned trip … I didn’t travel there post-election to yell at people for tilting the election), I was driven back to the airport on Sunday by a man who immigrated from Jamaica a few years ago. And for 15 minutes, we had a very thoughtful conversation about why so many people voted for Trump — and why so many chose not to vote at all.

Needless to say, this election has been a wake-up call for young white liberals. To us, Trump is the biggest threat to the ideologies that we want to see championed across the nation. And in our mostly privileged lives, it’s one of the first time we didn’t get our way.

But for young black voters, a Trump presidency is not an existential problem, especially when you consider how much hardship they have endured — and continued to endure — throughout their long history in this country. To them, Trump is simply another inconvenience towards their path to equality, and one of many.

dave-chappelle

On a racism scale of 1 to 10, my Uber driver pegged Trump at “about a 3,” which caught me a bit by surprise. When I asked him to elaborate, he said Trump preaches the sentiments of most people who were born during the Baby Boomer era, who long for the good ole days days of their childhood when nationalism was high and, consequently, segregation was the status quo. Trump’s not trying to be racist, he told me, he just doesn’t know any better because he’s never associated with black people, like most Americans his age.

This was a very similar sentiment expressed by David Chappelle in his cuttingly poignant monologue on Saturday Night Live. “We’ve been here before,” Chappelle lamented. In other words, a roadblock towards progress for African-Americans is nothing new.

Systematic racism has always been there, my Uber driver told me, but now, with Trump as president, it’s more out in the open than ever before. We the people, as well as the media, are on high alert for bigotry. And that, he said, is a good thing.

In other words, it might have to get a little worse before it gets better.

Amazingly, this was the first time I had spoken to a non-white person about the election results. And it just showed me beneficial it is to gain different perspectives.

You can’t stand up for something until you fully understand what the problem is.

I am just as unhappy with this election result as the people who are out there protesting on the streets. You can say that racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hate won in the end.

But instead of simply accepting that and disregarding all other possibilities, I’d rather focus my energy on learning what cultivated the emotion that led to this result.

Until we understand one another, we’re not getting any better.

That Uber ride cost me $13.20.

But the life lessons I learned along the way were priceless.

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