A Tale of 2 Uber Drivers: On Different Privileges + Killing My Humanity
It was the best of Uber rides, it was the worst of Uber rides.
One driver was kind, relational, human. The other — kind of a patriarchal, mansplaining asshole.
The other morning, I had jury duty. Since we’re down to one car, I hopped into an Uber to grumpily head to the courthouse in Newark, NJ. Due to a blessed string of events that have nothing to do with this particular story, I was immediately excused and happily turned right around to call another Uber.
My driver had a little trouble finding me — but she called me and we talked until finally there we were, her in her car, me standing on the street, waving at each other gleefully and laughing into our phones. When I got into the car, I thanked her for her persistence, she lamented the GPS system, and we were on our way.
It wasn’t long before we encountered a street closed by police activity — and it didn’t look good. Whatever had happened was big, and was bad. It was the kind of police activity that indicated a shooting, or an armed robbery, or a dead body. And we weren’t even in the grittiest part of Newark. My Uber driver, whose name was Jessica, spoke truth when she said, “I guarantee you won’t even see anything about that on the news.”
I have PTSD just from living.
She started opening up then. She lives just one town over from mine and yet in so many ways worlds apart. Probably about fifteen years younger than me with beautiful chocolate skin and a wide smile that seemed to open up a golden light in the car, Jessica said, “I’m looking to move soon — someplace I can find some peace. I have PTSD just from living.”
We talked about our children — hers are 11 and 5 — and then she started telling me about Oscar, a 60ish year old man with special needs who walked around her neighborhood. “Everyone knew him,” she said. “And all he’d ever do was ask you for fifty cents or a soda. He didn’t bother anyone.”
One day, she came home to her husband, and he said, very simply, “Oscar got shot in the head.”
It turns out, the back gate to their yard, which is supposed to remain locked by the landlord, wasn’t. Someone shot Oscar in the head, and Oscar found his way into the yard, where lay down on the ground. Jessica’s husband found him, went out to him, held his head.
“Who would shoot Oscar?” she said. “He never bothered anybody!” She went on to explain the complex emotions that go with this kind of horrific event. Maybe it was a blessing from God that her back gate was left unlocked by the landlord so that Oscar — who survived — could come in and get away from whomever hurt him. But what if they had followed him in? She struggled with the idea that she could be sitting in her own home with her children, enjoying her family, and all of a sudden bullets might be flying through her walls. She talked about another shooting at a nearby mall and said, “Can you imagine? All those people just out Christmas shopping, and someone gets shot?” She was quiet for a moment, and then said, “I just want to move somewhere I can find peace and grow me some vegetables.”
And I could so understand that. Peace and vegetables. It sounds so lovely. Lush and abundant and right. The way things should be. The way God meant them to be.
How God Meant It To Be
Ah, now. That’s a good question. So much to argue about there, so many ways to dismiss the humanity of other people by saying they are “not how God meant it to be.” Which is bullshit. But that doesn’t stop people from believing it.
Case in point: My next Uber driver of the day.
I was heading up to a NJ Brew Theology meetup — a place where theology nerds get together and talk about theology and drink beer (or wine, in my case). One of these days, I swear I’ll start listening to my intuition, because the minute Brian accepted my Uber trip and I saw his picture, I got a bad feeling. Almost a feeling like I shouldn’t get in the car with him. But like so many times before, I shushed my inner angel voice, shared my ride with my husband, and got in the car.
I was immediately sorry. Brian’s voice was incredibly loud and gruff — and he used it. A lot. As in, he never stopped talking. And by talking I mean yelling. Every word felt like an assault to my ears just because of the volume. As an intuitive, empathic introvert, this literally hurt. It actually hurt my body to be in this man’s presence. I tried to distract myself by texting my husband and my friend. I did a lot of deep breathing. I uttered a few “mmm-hmmms”, hoping Brian would understand from my lack of response that I was hoping for silence.
But then he found out I’m in seminary.
He started a gush of theological nonsense. He explained that he goes to Liberty University, and then told me about the church he goes to (a church with which I am familiar. A church that does not let women lead. A church that very intentionally excludes women from their leadership and discipleship training.) He mansplained theological concepts. “I probably don’t need to tell you this since you’re in seminary but Q is a Quelle, which means ‘source’ in German.” Yeah dude. I know.
There were a lot of things Brian didn’t need to tell me, but did anyway.
Like how Liberty is “very conservative school.” Like how his church, Emergence, is “very conservative.” Then he launched the big guns: “You know, we don’t believe women should preach or pastor. Our preference for a pastor is a married man.”
And with one easy sentence, he basically dismissed a core part of my humanity.
It was so easy for him to say it, as if it doesn’t really matter. He could, with one sentence, just make my calling, my passion be nothing, and he barely took a breath after he said it. It did not matter to him at all how this might make me feel. It did not matter to him one bit if his doctrine oppressed me. But dude, your doctrine in diametrically opposed to my very existence.
That’s destructive, not holy.
It makes me wonder — what is it that men find so offensive about women in leadership? And it also makes me wonder — if men can so easily ask women to give up this core part of us, this desire to lead and serve God and to use our brilliance and passion and skill to minister to people — what do they ask of themselves? Seriously. What core part of Brian does Brian dismiss with his doctrine?
This was one of those moments — and there are so many, every day — when I had to decide between self care and social justice-ing, between peace keeping and peace making. Knowing I was on my way to a place where peopling would be mandatory, I was desperate for a quiet ride I was not going to get. Did I want to add even more tension to a trip that already felt abusive? Would I open myself up for even more emotional distress and exhausting, destructive rhetoric if I spoke up?
I decided to remain silent. I probably said about 3 short sentences the whole way, while he sputtered on about Deutero-Isaiah blah blah and atonement theory whatever.
The kicker was when he dropped me off, he could barely hold in his exuberance when he said, “I so appreciate you! It’s been so interesting talking to you!” when I barely said a word. This was not the first time I’d been praised for being silent. That used to happen all the time when I was on staff in Evangelical spaces. But this was the first time I laughed outright. I had been exactly the kind of woman he wanted me to be: mute and peace-keeping. Not really living the fullness of my humanity. But that’s not who I am. And it’s not who I am becoming.
He has no fucking idea.
It wasn’t until the next day that I started thinking about those two very different Uber drivers. One, filled with pseudo-self-righteousness and the pride of white male privilege, the other with just hoping to survive, to live out her life without getting shot. And there I am in between them, living a life where I know my babies are safe in their own house, and fighting against those powers that would try to shut me up about all the injustice I see in the world.
I am angry about what Brian the Uber driver said — and I’m angry about all the others like him who teach this crap to millions of followers. But Jesus asks me to sit at a banquet table with even them. Even the John Pipers and Justin Taylors of the world, Jesus wants me to welcome.
So I’ll try, but not without some serious side eye.
I wonder what that would look like. Me, Jessica, Brian. Sitting at a table together. I wonder what Jesus would say to each of us, as we sat there. Jessica, wanting to protect her babies. Me, daring to preach. And Brian, telling Jessica and me to be quiet.
All of us just looking for our peace, and a place we can grow us some vegetables.