- 32-year-old Subhakar Khadka believes he was targeted by the women because he is a South Asian immigrant.
As hate crimes against Asian Americans are seeing a recent spike across the country, a Nepali Uber driver has become the latest among a string of victims. A video posted to a California local news reporter’s Instagram profile shows three women attacking an Uber driver and berating him on March 7 after he reportedly asked one of them to wear a mask.
ABC7 San Francisco’s Dion Lim reports that 32-year-old Subhakar Khadka, who has been an Uber driver for three years, picked up three female passengers on San Bruno Avenue in San Francisco at around 12:45 p.m. on March 7. They were dressed in red, yellow and black, and the woman in black was not wearing a face mask, so he asked her to put one on. Khadka decided to cancel the ride because not all of the three women complied with Uber’s rider policy to wear a face mask.
“He told me was picking up three women in the Bayview yesterday (Sunday) afternoon and noticed one did not have a mask,” Lim wrote in her Instagram post. “He asked one to put on a mask and he says they started yelling racial slurs and taunting him.”
The trio of “anti-maskers” were even caught on camera coughing on Khadka and refusing to leave the car. The video, which has already garnered hundreds of thousands of views online, begins after Khadka had already pulled the car over because the three passengers continuously refused to wear masks.
Seconds later, the passenger sitting directly behind Khadka rips off her mask, yells “F**k the mask,” and intentionally coughs several times in Khadka’s direction. The woman sitting behind the passenger seat then yells, “And I got corona.” She screams for several seconds. The passenger seated behind Khadka can then be seen suddenly lurching towards the front of the vehicle and attempting to grab Khadka’s phone from the dash. Khadka was able to grab the phone out of her hand as she tried to bring it into the backseat, saying “keep your hands off my property,” leading to all three passengers becoming unruly. The passenger who tried to take the phone then reached forward, grabbing the mask off of Khadka’s face and throwing it at him. Another passenger yells, “You about to get your ass kicked,” and “Now you about to get beat the f**k up.”
Khadka remained relatively calm throughout the minute-long interaction, even having the awareness to pick up the mask that was torn from his face and hold it up to the camera to show that one of the straps was ripped off.
Khadka told KPIX 5 that he believed he was targeted by the women because he is a South Asian immigrant. “I never said anything bad to them, I never cursed, I was not raised that way. I don’t hit people, I am not raised that way, so they were not getting out of my car,” he said. “If I was another complexion, I would have not gotten that treatment from them.”
He said that when he noticed the passenger seated behind him wasn’t wearing a mask, he asked her to please put one on. She said she didn’t have one, so he pulled into a nearby gas station so she could purchase one, but instead they began to mock him using racial slurs so he told them they had to get out of his vehicle. The driver said that, at the end of all of this, he was pepper-sprayed. “She pepper sprayed inside my car, from the passenger window that was open little bit, that was the only window open in my car,” Khadka told the news station, adding that he had to stop driving because the fumes made it difficult for him to breathe.
He said that Uber initially gave him $20 and later $120 dollars to clean the vehicle’s interior, but it wasn’t enough money for that task. According to Lim, an appalled early Uber investor @cyantist has started a @gofundme for Khadka.
In a statement to KPIX 5, Uber said: “The behavior seen in the video is appalling. The rider no longer has access to Uber,” and has been permanently banned from the ride-hailing service.
San Francisco police are reportedly investigating the incident. The Uber passengers have not yet been identified. After the incident with Khadka, she locked her Instagram account then unlocked it with a new account name @keepinupwforeign. According to the account, the rider is of Persian descent. She also took to Instagram Live to say she was “disrespectful and dead- ass wrong” but also blamed Khadka for ending her ride on March 7. She threatened to sue Uber in the video, which she ended with the words, “That’s why I take Lyft,” as reported by CBS SF Bay Area. As reported by CBS SF Bay Area, post Uber banning her, her Insta account has once again been locked.
After the traumatic incident, Khadka is currently enjoying a few days off, according to an Uber spokesperson.