Miami Beach, particularly in a week when cities like Boston and New York are facing bitter winter weather, boasts a welcoming, palm-tree filled sight. The Atlantic Ocean bedecks itself in varying shades of blue, a deceptively benign looking body of water which sporadically hosts Cuban refugees attempting perilous voyages in unseaworthy vessels. Over Presidents’ Day weekend a few hundred yards east from where these aspiring immigrants hope to land, the Miami Beach International Boat Show hosts some of the world’s most expensive and elegant yachts.
That contrast between penniless, homeless people seeking sanctuary and prospective yacht owners examining multi-million dollar boats, is seen by many as proof of injustice and the need for income redistribution. Perhaps, it is proof of exactly the opposite.
My husband loves the Miami Boat Show. It is the equivalent, for him, of a fashionista attending New York’s fashion week or a geek attending Comdex. This year, some business meetings in Florida and fortuitously timed speeches in North Carolina (o.k., some gentle nudging helped these events fall out exactly at the right time) allowed us to route ourselves via Miami and wander the docks. As Miami is also home to many of N. America’s best kosher restaurants, we occasionally left the waterfront to eat.
Thursday night, on a tight schedule to be on time for radio broadcasting, we hailed a cab back to our hotel after supper. A few nights later, we took the same route but this time used Uber. In between those two rides I read an article in the Miami Herald entitled, Uber debate takes on ethnic undertone. The first sentence reads as follows:
“As debate rages in Broward County between traditional taxi companies
and the new game in town, Uber, a disturbing undercurrent has emerged.”
That undercurrent, the article implies, is racism and xenophobia. Uber’s drivers in Miami are more likely to be white and college educated than are taxi drivers. The implication is that Uber and its riders are prejudiced bigots. Are they really?
The bigot accusations stemmed from comments customers made complaining about taxi service. What terrible things were said? Passengers resented having drivers whose cars were dirty, whose English was inadequate and whose rides, they felt, were longer than necessary. All three of these criterion are subjective. Could the complaints stem from bigotry? Maybe. They could also stem from people who expect a certain level of cleanliness, who wish to communicate with their driver and who suspect that their fare was higher than necessary.
The taxi ride we took on Thursday night cost us about $8. The taxi was clean, but we had trouble understanding what our driver said. He, whether maliciously or from ignorance, stayed in a lane where cars in front of him were stopping to make turns. The same ride with our Uber driver cost under $5, was quicker and included a pleasant conversation.
Are we bigots? It is true that our taxi driver was a dark colored immigrant. But so was our Uber driver. In the short time we had together, he told us how, at age sixteen, he pleaded with his father in Haiti to let him leave for America. His father’s acquiescence led to two years of labor in the Bahamas, followed by immigration to the United States. Our Uber driver, Frederick, waxed eloquently about the blessings of this country and the opportunities afforded to him. As we drove by the row of mega-yachts, he looked at them with pride, a symbol of what his children might be able to afford thanks to the free market in this country. Frederick also spoke resentfully of fellow immigrants who, he said, didn’t want to work hard as he had done.
I don’t know anyone who is opposed to immigration. I know many people who are opposed to recruiting the resentful and the jealous, the violent and the American haters. How potential immigrants view this country’s wealthy citizens and events like the Miami International Boat Show- as enemies to be overcome or as wonders to be appreciated – speaks strongly as to whether they should be welcomed or not.
What are the best boat tales in the Bible? Noah’s Ark and Jonah’s escape to Tarshish are two good contenders. Study them with adult intellect and find the hidden messages for your life.