Aisha Fairclough told Global News she and her partner were taking a short Uber ride from the Church and Wellesly area when the drive quickly soured. Fairclough said the driver was reluctant to move his seat forward to give her more legroom, telling her to get out and find another driver if she was unhappy.
“He said, ‘You know, if you don’t like it, call another Uber,’” said Fairclough, adding that she had to ask the driver to loop back after he passed their destination.
As Fairclough and her partner, NDP MPP Jill Andrew, were getting out at the Ontario legislature, she told the driver she was unhappy with his demeanour. That was when she said he levelled a racist word at her in response.
“He then turns to me and says, ‘Effing N-word, get out of my car,’” said Fairclough. “I was shocked, my eyes opened widely.”
Her eyes filling with tears, she said she asked the driver to repeat what he had just said. The driver, Fairclough said, repeatedly denied saying what she heard. Before he drove off, Fairclough took a photo of him and his licence plate.
“This is not right, like, you can’t say these things,” said Fairclough. “Took a picture of the licence plate and he drove off and I was left near tears. This was deeply disturbing and upsetting.”
Fairclough immediately tweeted about the incident, because she didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.
“It’s sad and it’s disgusting, but this has happened to a lot of Black people before and oftentimes, we don’t say anything about it.”
As disturbing as the incident may be, Fairclough said it isn’t the first time she’s been the target of racist words or attitudes. She said she worries about others who may be exposed to the same racist attitudes.
In a statement to Global News, Uber said as soon as it became aware of the incident, it terminated the driver in question’s access to the app.
“What has been reported is deeply upsetting and something no person should experience,” an Uber spokesperson said in the statement. “Discrimination has no place on the Uber app or anywhere.”
Uber said it has a clear non-discrimination policy, which addresses race, religion, sexual orientation and more.
Fairclough said simply having the policy isn’t enough and points to her recent experience as to why the company needs to do more to address anti-Black racism.
“This wasn’t just discrimination,” said Fairclough. “This was anti-Black racism.”
She said she wants the company to publicly share its commitment to directly address anti-Black racism through policies or training for drivers.
“What are they going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen to another passenger?” said Fairclough.
She said Uber has been in touch with her and commits to getting back to her next week. While acknowledging that policy changes take time, Fairclough said she wants assurances something official will be done.
“We need some type of public acknowledgement, not just a reply to my tweet,” she said.