You get to be my age and you’ll think you’ve seen everything. Then you’ll meet a racist from Djibouti.
I’m driving today when I get an Uber call to the airport. I pick up a guy, let’s call him David. He’s got a backpack and a couple of bags.
During the trip, he tells me he’s a trucker. His truck has broken down and will take a week to fix. I am to take him to the airport where he will rent a car to drive to Stockton, California, to pick up a new truck.
He has quite a bit of an accent, but is speaking English very fluently. There’s a touch of French to it, but also kind of African. I look back at his face for the first time and see he’s got that sort of bronze skin and aquiline features that remind you of North Africans and Egyptians.
Then the conversation takes a weird turn. He asks me where I’m from. I tell him Boise, Idaho. He starts to talk about having been in Boise for a while, some of the restaurants he used to frequent, and then begins talking about the substantial increase in African immigrant population in Boise.
“You didn’t used to see them out in public like five years ago,” he told me. “But last time I’m out at a Trader’s Joe” (that’s how he said it) “and you see these women dressed up in beekeeper suits,” he said referring to the traditional Muslim garb known as the niqab.
I glanced back at David again. He continued. “It’s one thing to be dressed like that in New York City where all the damned foreigners are, but if you’re going to be in a small town like Idaho,” (Idaho? Forget it, he’s rolling.) “What’s the saying, ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do?'”
I answered, “Yeah, I suppose that works for Rome but we have a saying here in America, do what you like as long as you don’t hurt others.”
While I was sitting there trying to discern if his comments were more racist or Islamophobic, he went on to help provide a case for the former. He explained that he is from the country of Djibouti, and that it used to be a French colony, so he does not need a passport to go to or reside in France.
“You don’t see very many of my people over here,” he said, “but in France, that’s where they all go to. I don’t like my people and I don’t want to be around them, so that’s why I’m here.”
Welcome to America, David. There’s a whole set of news networks and a political party here you’re going to love. Just don’t be surprised if they think Djibouti is a nasty Cardi B song.