The NAACP Issues Travel Advisory For American Airlines

Filed Under: American

Well this is… interesting. We sometimes see the government issue travel advisories for certain destinations, though at the moment we’re seeing a social justice advocacy organization issue a travel warning for an airline.

With immediate effect, the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for American Airlines, encouraging travelers, especially African Americans, to exercise caution in booking and boarding American flights. Here’s the full travel advisory:

The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines. In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing national advisory alerting travelers—especially African Americans—to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions. This travel advisory is in effect beginning today, October 24, 2017, until further notice.

The series of recent incidents involve troublesome conduct by American Airlines and they suggest a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.  Among these incidents:

  1. An African-American man was required to relinquish his purchased seats aboard a flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh-Durham, merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers;
  2. Despite having previously booked first-class tickets for herself and a traveling companion, an African-American woman’s seating assignment was switched to the coach section at the ticket counter, while her white companion remained assigned to a first-class seat;
  3. On a flight bound for New York from Miami, the pilot directed that an African-American woman be removed from the flight when she complained to the gate agent about having her seating assignment changed without her consent; and
  4. An African-American woman and her infant child were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York City when the woman (incidentally a Harvard Law School student) asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.

The NAACP deplores such alarming behavior on the part of airline personnel, and we are aware of these incidents only because the passengers involved knew their rights, knew to speak up and exercised the courage to do so promptly. Historically, the NAACP has issued travel advisories when conditions on the ground pose a substantial risk of harm to black Americans, and we are concerned today that the examples cited herein may represent only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to American Airlines’ documented mistreatment of African-American customers.”

“All travelers must be guaranteed the right to travel without fear of threat, violence or harm,” stated Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP. “The growing list of incidents suggesting racial bias reflects an unacceptable corporate culture and involves behavior that cannot be dismissed as normal or random.  We expect an audience with the leadership of American Airlines to air these grievances and to spur corrective action.  Until these and other concerns are addressed, this national travel advisory will stand.

Comments
  1. I keep on being amazed by the violence, racism and uncivilized behaviour in the US. You guys have really gone off track somewhere.

  2. @ Ben — Gee, I wonder who at the NAACP is an Exec Plat who has been ignored when complaining? This is what AA gets for being so greedy and rude in its treatment of customers.

  3. White commenters always saying black people are playing the “race card”…can you just shut up for once!!! Why dont you tell isrealis or jews dat they are playing thesame card.

    Just shut up ur privileged mouth….ben for how mych travelled and exposed you claim to be, you are just finding out that organizations issue travel warnings??? Smh

    Ofcourse a white gay man feels invisible, till he gets called a particular word then would play the g card. Ignoring oppression of others…hiss

  4. How bizarre that after an organization representing a minority group provides some evidence to suggest that certain passengers may be discriminated against at a certain business, the first thing that so may commenters suggest is that this is playing the “race card”.

    Why? Might it not be true? Why do you think it can’t possibly be, to the extent that you feel you have to weigh in? Do you have more evidence than that provided?

    Funnily enough, charges of racial bias against this (or any) company doesn’t seem surprising to me at all. Perhaps that’s because I see other businesses doing the same here in New York – taxis, supermarkets, departments stores – every day.

    It is a reminder, however, that a good portion of the country doesn’t like to think too much. I guess we already knew that. What always surprises me is the reflexive racism of those people, evidence of which is above.

  5. If I was the head of the US government, a 15 hour AA flight in 77W economy would be my form of enhanced interrogation. The government should impose a travel advisory for AA.

  6. Ah, all the poor, misunderstood and discriminated against white trump deplorables above exercising their first amendment right (what should be rightly only theirs).

    And yes, there are other amendments besides the second…

    BTW, I’m caucasian but not stupid and can see discrimination even when it does not happen directly to me. I guess I don’t suffer from the popular medical condition of republican empathy gap.

  7. Not to speak for anybody else, but the reason I’m more inclined to believe it’s a “race card” than a legitimate pattern of discrimination is because I’ve seen for myself the way people get treated.

    I’m an EXP on AA, I’ve taken hundreds of flights with them this year alone.

    Service across the board is pretty bad, a lot of the time. I’ve seen people throw fits, a lot of the time. I’ve seen people get removed and not understand why, because they’re infrequent travelers and they don’t see what they did wrong or that it’s out of the airline’s control.

    It’s one thing to argue that AA should step up its customer service game; it’s another thing to suggest that an entire company has a deliberately hateful attitudes toward a particular racial group.

  8. How many times do you think white people feel they have “been done wrong” by staff on flights but yet we don’t scream racial profiling. We just suck it up and realize it was a particular flight attendant having a bad day or else that airline employee having a bad attitude in general.

    So a hand full of incidents against AA, just or unjust, represents the entire African American race being mistreated as a whole! This (along with the recent travel advisory for the entire state of Missouri) are classic examples of racial divide by the NAACP at its best.

  9. All the incidents mentioned are disturbing. However, none of these appear to be obvious examples of racial discrimination. I have no doubt that there are racist bigots in positions of power in this country; I can think of several who were, in fact, elected to their office. That having been said, discrimination at AA would be apparent if these situations were happening to minority groups disproportionate to their share of the traveling public. The only thing we know for sure is that when the slightest thing goes wrong, most domestic airlines treat their customers with open disdain. I’m honestly a bit surprised that the NAACP could only come up with four examples of black customers receiving sh~tty service from an airline.

  10. Lucky, a little historical context would have been nice here. This is hearkening back to the invaluable Green Book Guides. They were guidebooks, published every year until 1966, designed for black travelers instructing them on which hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants, would be reasonably safe for them to visit. They were absolutely necessary at a time when legalized discrimination was tolerated and encouraged in the US. While this announcement might be a little bit of an attention grab, its clearly referencing these books and the not too far away historical moment where black people were not free to travel around the country knowing they would be safe at any restaurant or hotel. The intro paragraph you have literally opens the comments section up for racist hatemongering.

    For more on the Green Guide Books, please see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Negro_Motorist_Green_Book

  11. The State of American
    I see American discriminate towards most customers perhaps even worse to minorities
    But it’s their business culture generally today
    However when you have management that has nothing but greed and a severe lack of customer relationship management skills in place overall you have serious problems to begin with
    Agents aren’t empowered to make good will or recovery gestures when appropriate and the tone is it’s all about us without empathy or apology on a daily basis
    I’ve watched American go from my favorite program and airline to about the bottom of the swamp
    I hold Doug Parker personally accountable for the low quality food morale decline and the destruction of program value not limited to seat availability of saver awards
    It cost them all of my business and it’s likely that I’ll ever go back with or without this warning
    They can do whatever they wish to most passengers shy of physically harming them
    Let us not forget they have a monopoly in a number of markets so they don’t have to compete and passengers will have to bow to them of every race and accept their repeated failures or drive use the train or swim to their destination

  12. “(incidentally a Harvard Law School student)”

    LOL give me a break. Despise the placement of this.

    -A Harvard grad

  13. @Lucky

    I’ve been a long time reader, but am a little disappointed at this article. Simply spewing out a press release or advisory is not journalism, especially when it would be helpful for an analysis of what is being said and if it can be taken at face value.

  14. NAACP should issue an advisory for living in the inner city of Chicago Baltimore Ferguson etc etc. They should also advise against single motherhood in the ghetto. Dropping out of HS has also some very detrimental effects. Dealing and consuming drugs is also a very major detrimental situation for many CP.

    Just think about the logistics of running a racist culture in a huge company which employes many CP. How do you coordinate you racist agenda? Do you have secret racist meetings and memos? How do you ensure that no one of your thousands white employees doesn’t blow a whistle on your racist plans. Are these people insane?

    The word racist has completely lost its meaning because it’s overused.

  15. NAACP playing the race card when they shouldn’t.

    Let’s say there really was discrimination in these incidents — why isn’t the NAACP helping the victims file suit?

    Perhaps because there was no discrimination….

  16. I’m white and AA treats me terribly too. AA isn’t racist, it’s just a horrible company for everyone.

  17. It’s difficult to site racism as the reason for AA’s mistreatment of these passengers when passengers of all backgrounds are being mistreated on a daily basis by airlines.

    Just yesterday an African American flight attendant on my DL flight (ATL:TPA) was incredibly rude and patronizing to an elderly white couple and demanded that they change seats and went so far as to threaten to throw them off the flight if they didn’t comply, even when it was obvious that one of the passengers was suffering from dementia and clearly confused. I saw another gay, white male flight attendant who insulted and made a young white woman check her carry-on bag despite their being plenty of room available in the overhead bins which the attendant insisted on closing early during the boarding process in order to try and make up for a 30 minute inbound delayed aircraft on the flight back (TPA:ATL). (DL, I appreciate your on-time record, but not at the cost of insulting and inconveniencing your passengers).

    Uncivilized behavior on airlines is not limited to one racial group or one airline, it’s an epidemic.

  18. AA has universally terrible service but it’s not racist. The lack of customer service come from the lack of effort and thus the treat everyone the same way – badly. Racist treatment is very different and much harder since first you need to put effort into sorting between customers and singling out those for mistreatment. Then you need to put effort into mistreatment. AA employees don’t care enough to put that much effort. They just treat everyone like crap.

    I worked for nonprofits and I would call this NAACP fall fundraising campaign. They will get quite a bit of money from AA.

  19. @Ron. And where do you live? Racism is not a purely “American” problem. It is a problem with humanity in general and I see significant racism in most every country in the world. If you are from New Zealand though you get a pass.

  20. Jeez, I always assumed AA gave equal opportunity shitty costumer service.

    Of course, there are two sides to every story. Any organization that employs thousands of people across the country is going to have racist/prejudice/bigoted employees somewhere in its ranks. It’s entirely possible some AA employees have downgraded or removed a passenger because of their race but it would be hard to prove any intentional or systematic racism from the top down though. However, rude, disrespectful a**holes exist in all walks of life, no matter the race, gender, religion, orientation, etc… You can’t go around treating airline employees like crap or cause a commotion and delay a flight, then call racism when they kick you off the flight.

  21. I am more disappointed in the ‘…interesting’ snark from Lucky. Race issues are not a scam to get money. Race issues are not ‘playing the race card’. Race issues are real in this country AND in other countries as well. I would like one other African American on this site to state that they have never been discriminated against on an airline. I had it happen this month.

    When you enter into business class with a group of white people and the only person that the flight attendant ‘challenges’ is you, it strikes you as odd. When it happens 50% of the time, it strikes you as a pattern.

    I am not a whiner, and I gladly and politely address the ‘challenge’. But for those of you who don’t get the ‘challenge’ regularly, can you really comment that this is bogus?

    Here was the last challenge:

    Me: Entering the plane, greeting the FA, showing my boarding pass, headed to my J seat.
    FA in J Class: Are you going to try to sit in 5A.
    Me: Yes
    FA in J Class: Can I see a boarding pass?
    Me: Yes, can I put my luggage in the overhead first?
    FA in J Class: Not until you show me your boarding pass.
    Me: Putting my luggage down and providing the boarding pass
    FA in J Class: Thank you.

    Never saw her ask another single passenger in J class whether they had a boarding pass before they sat.

    Its not a coincidence and it shouldn’t be laughed off, or discounted. I have been travelling for my job since the 80’s. Most international trips in J class. The past 10 years have been the worst that I can remember. I am not a young guy. I dress professionally. I am regularly challenged to prove I belong in J class.

    There are REAL issues behind the NAACP’s advisory. One of which is to get AA to respond.

  22. I think Mark F. raises a valid point. Although the NAACP’s action may raise a few eyebrows (e.g. why target AA and not other airlines?), racism still unfortunately happens. Ben, I’m sure you agree with that, and to me a more interesting post would be about how different people get treated in J class.

    I was able to secure a J award on a trans-atlantic flight for a friend in her 20s on United, and when she boarded the plane the flight attendant directed her to coach, and my friend had to state that she has a J seat.

  23. @ Mark F. — I 100% believe racism is real and is still very much a problem in this country. It needs to be addressed, and is probably more of a problem now than several years ago. We’re on the same page. My “interesting” comment is in regards to American being singled out here. I have no reason to believe that American is any worse than some of the competition. US carriers transport tens of millions of people a year, and I don’t think there’s anything structurally different about American that would put passengers more at risk on them than other airlines.

    Again, I’m with you. Discrimination is very much alive, and is probably especially evident in the airline industry. The only part I find surprising is singling out American here.

    While it’s not as bad as racism, I can attest first hand to ageism in the airline industry. Back when I was much younger and flying in premium cabins, I was also constantly questioned. That was true across airlines.

  24. I can’t relate to the experience African Americans have in the modern element, and attempting to speak for them certainly isn’t my place.

    I think we can all agree on one fundamental point. American’s service is bad. Really bad. I’ve had better days waiting at the NYC DMV.

    One thing I’d point out, is that the NAACP is a fierce opponent of the current American Administration, and Doug Parker has shown, at minimum, a working relationship with the Administration and President. I’d have to wonder if there’s some correlation.

  25. @ Lucky – I’m 20, Diamond on DL, MVP 75K Gold on AL and Platinum Pro on AA, and I can relate to your ageism comment. The next time someone asks me “did your parents get you this seat/status?” I’m probably going to lose it.

  26. @Lucky, thank you. My concern with your ‘…interesting’ comment is that you usually reserve that in your reviews for something that you think is superfluous, silly, or bad. So, I might have inadvertently attributed the same feelings to this article. I read all your reviews, and when you say ‘…interesting’ in the past, you don’t really mean ‘interesting’. I appreciate your response.

    As for the ageism, interestingly enough, I was flying Biz Class in the 30’s (in the 90’s) with Northwest monthly. Usually to Asia or Europe. As a young man, I was never ‘challenged’ as much as I am now as a man in my late 50s. I appreciate that you have definitely experienced it though.

  27. To all White People: Yes, customer service is terrible and you’ve all been treated badly by airlines. But stop being confused. The minority is treated a bit more worse but you don’t have the natural ability (being white) to notice or realize. There’s so much in built racism in these replies, starting with Lucky’s snarky opening. The NAACP has no evidence if there’s systemic discrimination at AA, but is just advising caution. You know just like all those travel advisories that governments put out when there’s some terrorist incident.

  28. To all the black people who think or know whitie has done you wrong and your ass hurt about it, think of the overwhelming majority of white people who don’t think, feel or act this way to you. We also have the same issue with black people from time to time but we can’t say anything about it or don’t have an association of white people to go cry to about it.

    To both sides who have issues with their tiny feelings and inflated egos being hurt, I say only one thing….SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUPS!

  29. Racism is not a problem in this country. I am not racist. The president of the United States is not racist. That said are some American Airlines employees racist ? I doubt it. However , I do think it was rediculous that that woman’s seat assignment was changed from an aisle seat to a middle seat on that flight from Miami.
    The gate agent claimed she didn’t pay for the aisle seat. She was a platinum member though. Was the gate agent upselling a passenger to that seat at the gate just as the woman was at the self service kiosk checking in ? Do American employees get incentives or commission for selling main cabin extra ? Although she was mistreated did that woman verbally assault the gate agent and that was witnessed by the pilot ? I saw her video and she seemed kind of nuts. A high powered business woman. She seemed like a very unpleasant person to deal with. Yes her seat shouldn’t have been changed and American dropped the ball. Does this mean the pilot was racist ? That woman did make a huge seen after he kicked her off the plane.

  30. The NAACP is a race grievance business, that had a valid reason to exist many decades ago, when racial discrimination was rampant. This country has, as they say, ‘evolved’, and while there are a few truly racist individuals (of every race btw) still around, blatant racist behavior in public is now totally socially unacceptable

    But while the original reason for the existence of the NAACP is now in the past, the organization is still around. And in order to meet payroll they need to continually get publicity, since they are now competing with the SPLC, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and myriad other “activist” groups for donations.

    Many of the accusations listed in the grievance above were covered in this blog when they occurred, and were proven to not be based on racism. For example the woman who was “switched to coach” from FC. The facts are she and her companion had purchased coach tickets, and were initially given free upgrades to FC. But when AA had to do an equipment swap to a smaller plane AA no longer had as many FC seats to give away. Certainly not an example of racism. Rather AA had tried to do something nice for her with the upgrade, and then gets insulted when circumstances changed. As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

    As Lucky said, AA flies millions of people every day, and if there was systemic racism one of these race grievance groups would be pursuing class action lawsuits against AA hoping for multi-million dollar pay outs.

    Just how absurd this ‘crying wolf’ of racism has become is the comment above claiming that the word “interesting” is some sort of racist ‘dog whistle’.

    I’ll believe this country is no longer basically racist when a Black person gets elected POTUS.

    Oh, wait… 😉

    And a question for our European friends who use the racist slur for the US, ask yourself this: how many Black or Asian Presidents and/or Prime Ministers have been elected in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, etc. I rest my case….

  31. In decades of air travel, I’ve seen equally bad behavior on display between air carriers, directed at people of all races, to women, to young, to gay basically across the board. And I believe the airlines have in their employ their share of racists, homophobes, sexists, etc. The problem starts at the top with management. Morale among airline employees could not be lower. It’s easy for management and employees to blame passengers for these incidents but on closer examination couldn’t all of these incidents cited in the NAACP letter and the ones mentioned in comments above been handled better? When the employees get treated badly by management, they pass that along to the traveling public. The sh*t always rolls downhill. Parker needs to fix the morale problem at AA.

  32. Robert Hanson –

    1) Exactly
    2) there just have been so many examples of things like this

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/10/24/african-american-man-charged-with-anti-black-vandalism-that-shook-eastern-michigan-university/

    That the default for most of America is “prove it.”

    Most people, of all shades, have had crappy service and felt screwed by the airlines. Most people, of all shades, have had racist encounters. I’ve had servers, hostesses, cashiers, etc all give me poor service while everyone that was a minority got great service (and I tip well and am very cheerful 99.98% of the time when dealing with service workers). I’ve been called a cracker. I don’t like being told my opinion doesn’t matter because of the race I am (white people here this 10x more than minorities do in this country, men doubly so) rather than debating what I’m saying. But guess what? I deal with it and move on. As do most people in America. Having worked in retail for a large number of years in the field and at the HQ for a retail that had to deal with escalated issues, and at a HQ for a hospitality company and a SIL who still works retail, I can promise you there are GRIEVANCE people of all races who are constantly trying to scam companies, take advantage of companies and get freebies/refunds or just frankly want to complain. When you hear these horror stories, 99 times out of 100, there is another side to the story and I’d bet at least 75%, the company is in the right or mostly in the right. With the airlines, I’d bet that is only 25% of the time they are in the right but most of the time its just because they give crappy service.

    For those of you who know a bit of history, one of my favorite quotes on this subject goes all the way back over 100 years ago!

    ““There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the black race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the blacks to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
    -Booker T Washington

    His quote holds true today, and is true for all races and people.

  33. and want does this advisory accomplish? do they want PoC not to fly American? Do they want PoC to give employees a hard time should the airline make a request they don’t think is fair? They are asking for more issues. And lets get real, airlines only care about money, not race. Only color that matters is green. There is also a reason taxi drivers avoid black neighborhoods, because they’re a hassle to deal with compared to white customers as a whole. They have to worry about getting stiffed or robbed or having to deal with unreasonable request. A lot of these taxi drivers are of color or immigrants. They make the decision not because they are racist but because there is a real pattern. I am sure there is also a real pattern of bad behavior on airlines as well.

  34. As an Asian, I never judge African Americans in my social circle but I avoid dealing with African Americans that I don’t know, simply because they are statistically more likely to be unpleasant to be around. Always seem to have a chip on their shoulder and an “everyone owes me” attitude. If anyone offends them, it’s naturally always because of their race.

  35. Seems to me there’s a tight correlation between those commenters denying racism and those who can’t spell or use correct grammar. Ignorant Americans or ignorant non-American trolls?

    Of course, as we are seeing daily in the Rust Belt, when a Caucasian has to live under the same terms as a minority they turn to drugs or suicide because they’re not as strong.

  36. Watch now AA will start bumping only white people out of fear of being called a racist. You have to wonder how many times people are bumped by african American AA employees. Playing the race card is absurd. The issue is lousy customer service and to somehow imply only black people have these experiences with AA is just false.

  37. Gadfly said (with my grammar corrections in [ ])

    “[It] Seems to me [that] there’s a tight correlation between those commenters [commentators] denying racism and those who can’t spell or use correct grammar. Ignorant Americans or ignorant non-American trolls?”

    I’d suggest you (and people in general) stop leading off with ad-hominem attacks – especially when guilty of the same “crime” you are accusing others of committing. Even if you are right, the other side has already tuned you out. People do make typos and errors on the interwebs – get over it.

    Bill said – “Watch now AA will start bumping only white people out of fear of being called a racist. ”

    This has been happening all over the place for a while. Ever been in corporate America in a role in helping shape deciding who is laid off? I have on a number of occasions unfortunately. White males are laid off first, then Asian males, then depending on the industry either white/asian women or black males, then everyone else.

    College admissions and scholarships work the same way, except Asians move behind white males. CRM/Guest Relations teams (outside of airlines, who push back against everyone) will virtually never push back on a return or complaint of a minority. Just refund and move on. It’s not worth the risk of bad PR. My SIL was told by her manager to refund $150 worth of “bad meat” from a purchase *3 months* earlier from a minority this past week as one of many examples because they didn’t want to potential cause an incident. White people are just as likely to do that same shady stuff, but is more likely to have mgmt push back on it (eg: may replace the meat rather than a cash refund for the minority, or even outright refuse in rare cases).

  38. @chasgoose You hit the nail on the head. This is the NAACP telling people what is safer for them while traveling, just as the Green Guides did in the era of Jim Crow laws. It is unsurprising that they felt the need to do so now because of all the racist BS that is crawling out from under rocks with the advent of the Trump administration.

  39. I’m an ExPlat and can not believe for one minute that AA is discriminatory against people of color. I’ve also seen gate agents who have bad days, poorly trained, argumentative to their customers and have a non-service demeanor. However, to say that they discriminate or do this just to African-Americans, when I see other races treated the same does NOT prove racism. White folk get treated the same and don’t tell me otherwise. Additionally, have you ever noticed the number of gate agents that are minorities? There are a lot of them and I can’t believe they pick on the NAACP people because of their skin color. Stop being overly sensitive with a grudge.

  40. People are screaming racism so much it lost all meaning. All I hear is “I want preferential treatment” and/or “I want to lazily win an argument, so now I’ll call you racist”.

    Oh no, a customer was bumped from a seat. That obviously only happens to muh minorities. Please.

    The days when this worked are over.

  41. Whenever I read about ‘racism’ in North America, especially from other nationalities, I think back to my ex-pat experiences in Singapore and the Middle East.

    The level of ‘racism’ in North America is insignificant compared to racism as practiced in other societies around the world. REAL racism, not just the complaints about seat assignments.

    But it is very easy to stigmatize the US.

    Remember that GB had probably more slaves longer than the US. And the real slavers in Africa were members of another tribe.

  42. There is a good reason most presumed white people in this string are sputtering with rage. According to sociologist Robin DiAngelo what we are seeing is ‘white fragility’. A columnist in the Toronto Star put it this way: ‘White people move through a racialized world with an unracialized identity, she says. For example, white people see themselves as representing all of humanity, while they see people of colour as representing only their racial selves. This is why suggesting that a white person’s viewpoint comes from a racialized identity is seen as a challenge to their objectivity. These challenges are highly stressful and even intolerable, DiAngelo says. “White fragility,” then, is white pushback to regain racial position and equilibrium’. Lots of that here! All of that defensiveness! OMG! As for white males getting the shaft, welcome to the club! Most non-whites do not even get a look in.

    Here’s DiAngelo again (2011, Intl. J. Critical Pedagogy 3 (3): 54 – 70): I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my cofacilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism.

    The West is a cesspool of racism and Trump has given permission for whites’ true feelings to emerge. I am neither white nor black, but a white woman spat at me in Montreal and white man did the same in London’s Hyde Park. I was simply passing by these folks, not saying a thing (would the white girl holding my hand been the reason? There are large numbers of beautiful white folks who do not see things this way, who are racially humble and culturally accepting, but a frightening number of whites are openly or covertly racist. Did you see the anger and hatred, those burning eyes, in Charlottesville? Yes, #Alan, other countries have racial problems but those countries do not go about hypocritically lecturing everyone else about ‘human rights’ and blah blah blah. And in many developing countries the problem far more is elitism as opposed to outright racism (although, sure, it damned well exists).

  43. The comments on this thread assure me of two things:

    – The NAACP was right to call out American and to issue a travel advisory
    – Based on the the number of people dismissing racism as a figment of the imagination of people of color, racism is alive and well in the US.

    Many of these comments make me ashamed to be American. How have people out there didn’t get the memo about how dismissing reports of racism isn’t just a function of white privilege, it reinforces that privilege. Stop already.

    Does anyone recall how Act Up, Queer Nation and other LGBT groups issued a similar advisory about American in the 1990s (when gay male passengers were frequently humiliated by many airlines)? Focusing attention on the problem was helpful and did much to make things better. American was not the only one, but it was targeted after a string of high profile incidents.

    I hope the NAACP’s advisory has the same effect here. I also hope that people reading this blog pause to think before they dismiss the problem in some demeaning way, either by calling it out as “playing the race card” (which reinforces the idea that “race” does not apply to white people, even though they play that card to make that statement) or by saying that their experience of bad service is the same as that of African Americans or other people of color (again playing the race card by suggesting that white people are all knowing).

    We heard the same dismissive remarks about charges of homophobia in the 90s. That has improved. I wish we could make similar progress around treatment of people of color. Why is this so much harder?

  44. #Alan, you say: ‘…the real slavers in Africa were members of another tribe’. So that is your excuse for white slavery? Yes, the slaves were usually delivered to white slave ships by more powerful African tribal people. But they did this because the slaves they could obtain were a commodity that was exchanged for goods, not because the ‘slavers’ thought they were somehow superior as most whites believed then and a shocking minority do today.

  45. As a black Muslim who has flown business class often, only American Airlines has been discriminatory. From telling me I can’t use priority boarding, serving my meal last, and in economy – giving me a meal without utensils- which I thought was an accident until the attendant did the same thing to another passenger with the same profile. It might be because other carriers (Etihad, Qatar) have a more international crew and are accustomed to dealing with diverse passengers in all classes of service.

  46. It is interesting how “bad behaviour” on the part of both passengers and airlines has evolved into a racial issue.

    I am very concerned by the NAACP’s advisory because it is very short on details. It is one of those “I have a list of names” accusation from the McCarthy era. Certainly that will annoy people who blindly support the NAACP but look at the words in their advisory. Their description of incident #3 is “On a flight bound for New York from Miami, the pilot directed that an African-American woman be removed from the flight when she complained to the gate agent about having her seating assignment changed without her consent.” There is more to it than “she’s black and gets bumped”.

    The incident concerns Ms. Tamika Mallory, the co-founder of the Women’s March movement. She was booked in the middle seat. It has been reported that when she arrived at the airport, she used a kiosk to change her seat assignment to an aisle seat. At the board gate, she was given the middle seat again. This action resulted in a “discussion” between Ms. Mallory and the gate agent that was overheard by the pilot. The end result was that Ms. Mallory was removed from the flight.

    Whether the removal was fair or unfair, Ms. Mallory had a Twitter meltdown where she twitted that she was the victim of “white make (sic) aggression”. That is a very offensive demonstration of bigotry and misandry from a person who believes that she is the ongoing victim of racism and misogyny.

    Considering Ms. Mallory’s influence in politics and social activism, I wonder how many people she called at the NAACP in order to get an advisory against American Airlines. Perhaps, a few but one has to wonder if her position do not provoke the NAACP to hastily issue an advisory.

  47. I too have seen very unfortunate incidents on AA over the past year. I am a white, in my 60s and executive platinum on American. Last March I was traveling on Business / First from London to New York (connecting to Boston) after having a lovely flight in first on BA from Riyadh to London. I made the mistake of sitting in seat 2 a rather than 6 a (I looked at the JFK to Logan Boarding Pass rather than the Heathrow to JFK pass). No problem after being verbally bitch slapped by a nasty young AA flight attendant, I moved. I noted some people I knew from Saudi ( I run a company there) and said a few greetings in Arabic. Prior to take off ( I was seated in the my seat) I was asked to leave my seat by a security officer and interviewed by him and the captain for making “suspicious statements” . I advised them what I said but noted to the Captain that he was in command and if he did not want me on his flight I would leave. I apologized for speaking Arabic on a US airline. No problem: I was sent back to my seat. It appears that the same flight attendant was the one who reported me. Later in the flight I needed to use the Lav. With the forward ones in B class occupied I went aft into economy and verbally spoken down to by same flight attendant.

    Fine, I voted with me feet. Now even it it cost more there is absolutely no way I will ever take an AA long haul flight. I now use my BA executive club for points. I had a lovely flight in first (connecting in London) on BA from Dubai to Boston. Frankly, for most of the readers of this news / blog we don’t have to put up with this. It is clear to me that AA employees are racially and culturally incentive and down right bigoted at times. I will not put up with this and not put up with a large American Company receiving a lot of Federal support for its operations getting away with this. Neither should any of us.

  48. @dennis

    double yawn. a country the has given you the ability to earn ex plat sounds like a pretty good one. considering any where outside of the western world is much more racist and not as welcoming as people that don’t look like them.

  49. Amina, please find another airlines to fly on. I’d be really happy if you did. I believe in gay rights and womens’ right, not in stoning people to death.

    Islam is cancer.

  50. I think this is a prime example of poor leadership at NAACP. Race card or not, I am sad that the NAACP is not focusing on their mission, but rather enjoying a power game or revenge by utilizing social media to punish a company. If they cared about black people being treated better, they would have contacted AA, asked for a meeting, and held a joint investigation into these events. Then, perhaps, the group together could come out heralding how the two worked together to make AA even better, while both could simultaneously look like champions and everyone wins. Even if AA declined the meeting or there they were unable to reach an agreement, the press release would have then come out significantly stronger, and with far more justification! But this event has little to do with making air travel better for black people, or helping AA to become a better airline.

    I am reluctant to identify the real battle on this power game, but you can call it pretty much anything you want. The NAACP embraces social media with a press release to do grave damage to AA. That’s an arguably pretty good ROI if your goal is to hurt AA. It was minimal work on the part of the NAACP. I personally doubt they conducted any reasonable or neutral investigation. It is simply a set back for everyone, perhaps even more so for black people.

  51. Does the NAACP travel advisory extend to the AA lounges as well?

    The rest of us would enjoy lighter crowd levels in the lounges when we have layovers.

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