Last night, the United States entered a post-Trump America, where "people have an all-access pass to be jerks publicly," says Denise Soler-Cox, the director of Being Ñ, a film about the American-born children of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.
Trump's campaign, as she tells it, has already opened the floodgates of overt racial discrimination. Her latest example: A few days ago when she told her Uber driver that she was a filmmaker leading a Latino social movement, he asked her, "Are you one of them?" She answered yes. He booted her from his car, she says.
Soler-Cox, whom Westword featured in a 2015 cover story, posted about her experience with the driver on Facebook, where dozens of people offered her words of support. A few shared their own experiences with Uber drivers who racially discriminated against them. Some said they had not raised the issue with the company because they feared their undocumented family members would be deported.
As a social-media maven, a longtime marketer and a filmmaker armed with her own publicist, Soler-Cox knows how to wrangle the press. Now, with her full public-relations arsenal in tow, she is on a crusade to force Uber to apologize to her and the other people who shared their experiences of discrimination, to demand the company provide cultural-sensitivity training to employees, and to ensure that Uber has explicit anti-racist policies.
An Uber spokesperson says the company is conducting an investigation into the incident, shut down the driver's access to the platform, and already has explicit anti-racist policies (below).
Über seeks to ensure that safe, reliable, and high-quality transportation options are available to everyone. Über and its affiliates therefore prohibit discrimination against riders or drivers based on race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity, age or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law. Such discrimination includes, but is not limited to, refusing to provide or accept services based on any of these characteristics. Any rider or driver found to have violated this prohibition will lose access to the Über platform.
Soler-Cox says Uber's current policies aren't working. Her demand for justice comes in the wake of a widely reported recent study showing Uber and Lyft drivers engage in racial and gender discrimination.
In Soler-Cox’s case, she was on the way to a Marc Anthony show at the Pepsi Center, “which for any Puerto Rican woman is a really big deal.” Cooking dinner for her kids took her longer than she thought it would, so she called an Uber.
When she first sat down, she had a good rapport with the driver.
She liked the driver’s Boston accent and thought they would get along. He asked her what she did for work, and when he found out, he asked what genre of movies she made.
“I gave him my brief elevator speech. ‘I made a film about what it’s like to be Latino in America and have parents from a Spanish-speaking country.’”
The driver looked in the rear view mirror and realized he had one of “'those people' in his car," Soler-Cox says.
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The conversation quickly turned sour, and he asked her to leave.
At the Marc Anthony concert, the singer touted the importance of the Latino vote and said, as she tells it, that once Hillary Clinton wins, the United States will never ignore the Latino vote again.
But Clinton did not win last night. Soler-Cox watched election results roll in at a Republican Party gathering.
“A door has been opened," she says. "People have walked through it and say it’s okay to be overtly racist and discriminating.”