no foreigners

It's becoming very popular to dislike Uber. Their executives are a bunch of jerks. They are eliminating the rents that certain politically powerful individuals were previously collecting. And moreover, occasionally Uber drivers do bad things, things that ordinary drivers didn't do many times in 2014 alone. This post is a request for all those people to check their privilege.

Living life without "white privilege" is different. Unlike many, I don't consider it to be a major burden - I can certainly imagine far worse disadvantages, for example being bad looking, low status, or unintelligent. But being a highly visible racial minority can be a burden at times.

One of the more common manifestations occurred today. I wanted to travel approximately 2km. I flagged an auto, told the driver my destination, and was given a price quote. The fare was about 4x the normal rate. At this point it was time for me to expend a lot of mental effort on negotiating. It's a skill I've gotten quite good at. My technique, which I've honed to perfection through lots of practice, is to quote them the exact price and walk away if they negotiate. Usually they'll follow me, offering a lower rate - perhaps 3.5x the normal rate. I again quote the correct rate and continue walking until they either come close to the proper price or drive off. When I say that this is a common manifestation, let me emphasize that this happens nearly every day.

As an intellectual exercise it's entertaining to observe the permutations of racism that I encounter. Most of them are quite harmless - someone expressing surprise that I follow the same eating habits as the majority, or asking where I'm originally from after I tell them where I flew from. On several occasions people have assumed my girlfriend (a different racial minority than myself) is a prostitute and tell me I should find a wife from my own racial group. There are even some advantages - there are (correct) stereotypes about my group that suggest we are promiscuous and have large penises; these sometimes result in women (often married) approaching me for one night stands. A few make my life significantly worse; the stereotypes that help me find one night stands harm me when looking for a relationship, and housing discrimination is rampant (as I alluded to with the photo in the headline).

Out of all these "microaggressions" (to borrow a popular phrase), the only ones that bother me on a regular basis are drivers ripping me off and women assuming that I'm unsuitable for a relationship.

That's why I love Uber. Uber completely solves one of the few racial problems I actually care about. Out of the corner of his eye, driving at 20kph, a driver can immediately decide to quote me an outrageous rate. With Uber, he either takes the ride or he doesn't. He never has the opportunity to discriminate since he doesn't know who I am, and he can't change the price since Uber doesn't allow it.

This eliminates two major issues - one is the financial issue, which I barely care about (I'm part of the top 1%). The other is the constant mental burden of having to deal with drivers bad attitudes and the unpleasant feeling of being ripped off.

It's really easy to criticize Uber when your needs are being well served. That's true for a lot of people. But for those of us who lack "white privilege", Uber is important. The best way to prevent prejudice is to replace biased human decisionmaking with systematic unbiased and automated processes - replace humans with computers that don't get race as an input (ala Uber), and racial bias becomes impossible.

Note: A lot of social justice terms are poorly defined, and I'm a big proponent of clear language and precise definitions. I'm defining "white privilege" as satisfying at least 3/4 of the applicable criteria (e.g. I have no children to educate about systemic racism) of this list. My use of the term is merely a tangential point, an attempt to use language that social justice types (a group that seems to have a very large intersection with Uber critics) are familiar with. If you disagree with my use of the term, please ignore it and focus on the underlying reality being discussed.


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