Video clips of an Asian man being kicked out of a United Airlines flight has taken the media, and the world, by storm. The multiple clips of the man’s limp body being dragged out by police officers after being thrown into the aisle, causing his mouth to start bleeding, have been profoundly disturbing and difficult to watch.
And, believe it or not, it has everything to do with race. This isn’t just an escort gone wrong. This is yet another act of police brutality caught on camera.
If this husband and wife were white, can anyone confidently say that this situation would have escalated the way it did?
This man was manhandled because he was a minority, a second-class citizen. The kind of message this event sends to the millions of minorities across the country is frightening, but it’s also nothing we haven’t heard before. It’s the same message they’ve sent with every black life that’s been brutalized or killed by the hands of those whose slogan is to protect and serve: obey and comply, no matter the circumstance, if you want to come out of a senseless situation alive and well. It’s a message that’s mainly been issued to people of darker skin tones, but now they’ve sent it to the ones they deem as “model minorities.” Not even that title will shield you from systemic racism and people of authority who apparently have a trigger on their brutality.
It’s sickening. It’s all too common. And it is quickly revealing what the U.S. is truly about: it’s impatient and has little to no room for empathy.
The initial response of the officer after throwing the doctor’s face into an armrest is not to aid the man and ask him if he’s okay. No, the officer’s first action is to drag the man’s body out of the plane before anything else. It was to dehumanize a doctor and his wife, and to remind the millions of people who look like this couple to stay in their place and stay quiet.
There’s an article in the Los Angeles Times that reports on a separate incident with United Airlines in which a white passenger was asked to de-board due to overbooking issues. The man, after a back-and-forth argument with a flight attendant, was threatened to be handcuffed and forcibly removed at one point. But nothing came of it and he was eventually downgraded to economy. While this was an unfortunate situation for the passenger, he was able to get to his destination on the flight he paid for.
The preceding paragraph is the difference between white and other. A white Trump supporter spewing profanity is allowed to calmly get back in his seat, but a minority whose been sitting in their seat quietly and refuses to de-board because he has every right to? Nope, they’ll just get dragged like a sack of meat. The dragging of a grown man’s Asian body has everything to do with the racist social climate that we currently reside in. It’s a dirty reminder of our fragile relationship with the majority, all the while functioning as a daunting prospect for what’s to come as long as we have incompetent leaders repeatedly throwing out comments full of hate and bigotry.
We must not chalk this up to just another incident that an airline handled poorly. It is a much deeper, far-reaching problem that needs to be met with the same level of intensity and ferocity that proponents of such situations love to put on display.
If there is ever a time for the Asian community to fully join the fight against systemic and institutional racism, it is now. The oppressors’ message has been received loud and clear. It’s time they hear ours.