I like to think of myself as someone not easily provoked to anger. But I do have hot buttons that can be pushed and one of them is when people are rude and insulting, especially when it is without any provocation. So I was immensely impressed with the patience of Lyft driver Shawn Pepas Lettman who was at the receiving end of a racist barrage from an obnoxious customer Robert Ortiz who was outraged, simply outraged, because his request for music was not acted on.
Lettman recorded the tirade that he experienced from Ortiz. I watched the whole 15 minutes or so because I was amazed that he could sit calmly and silently while Ortiz went on and on making all manner of taunting and racist comments against him, saying that Lettman was racist because Ortiz was gay and not black. I wonder if Ortiz acted so tough because he had a group of friends with him and Lettman was alone. Ortiz, like many people, demonstrates that a little lawyering is a dangerous thing. He must be getting his legal knowledge from TV shows because he makes laughable threats about his legal rights and what he can do to Lettman and Lyft. He also proudly claims to be a Trump supporter, though why that is relevant is not clear except that Trump supporters think that him being president validates their obnoxious behavior.
But the aftermath was not so kind to Ortiz. First a statement from Lyft.
“The behavior exhibited in the video is deeply concerning. Lyft is committed to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community and discriminatory behavior is unacceptable. We temporarily deactivated both passenger and driver accounts while we investigated the situation. After reviewing all sides, we reactivated Mr. Lettman’s account within hours and permanently disabled the passenger account. We have also reached out to Mr. Lettman to express our support.”
Then there was this statement from Ortiz’s employer.
On Thursday, Ortiz’s former employer, CityMD, a medical clinic, wrote in a Facebook comment, “This is to confirm that this individual was terminated and is no longer employed by or affiliated with CityMD in any capacity.”
According to Instinct Magazine, because Ortiz shared his phone number with the 911 operator and it was recorded on video, he received so many harassing calls that he changed his number.
Lettman explains how he was able to be so calm.
Anticipating a potential lawsuit from Ortiz, Lettman launched a GoFundMe page called “Insulted but not broken,” in which he wrote: “When my mother died she taught me a very important lesson, which was always useful but more now than ever. She taught patience, humble and calm will get you through anything. As a father of 2 my single means of providing for my wife and children is driving a rideshare, accommodating people from all walks of life. All of which I treat with the utmost respect, after all, I must provide for my family.” As of Thursday, he had raised nearly $26,000, well past the $20,000 goal.
He also addressed why he kept his cool during the attack — or as one GoFundMe supporter put it: “You, sir, have the patience of a saint.”
“I wanted to defuse the narrative that all black men are aggressive and violent,” Lettman said. “Some of us we are actually capable of performing in an intelligent setting… It’s not always worth it to use your fists.”
I can only echo Kipling’s words, “You’re a better man that I am, Gunga Din!”