"Thanks to United Airlines, is flying while Asian something to fear?
The forcible removal of an Asian man from an overbooked flight echoes cases of
American violence against people of colour who defy authority."
"The fear aboard United Express flight 3411 should alarm all thinking people about how
the American mind has been trained to obey above all else. Obedience is a relentless
message in the US, drilled into the populace via education, business, government – and,
of course, the threat and reality of police violence."
"Was this was an act of racial violence? Let’s look at what we know.
The Chicago police department identifies the passenger as a “69-year-old Asian man”.
There seems to an unhealthy logic in thinking if that if he had refused to give up his seat,
the appropriate response was violence. People tweeting “What would you have done?”,
as if the only “choice” was unleashing law enforcement upon an elderly person, reveals
how the American moral imagination dwells in what Get Out director Jordan Peele might
call our collective “sunken place”.
The same logic is often applied to black men who don’t survive encounters with the police:
if he’d obeyed, he’d be alive. This message is meant to instill a fear of disobedience in the living
and convince Americans that violence to facilitate commerce should be our first response.
The Chicago police department’s statement describes the passenger becoming “irate”
when asked to disembark from the flight, then claims that he “fell”, striking an armrest
and “causing injuries to his face”. That this so brazenly contradicts what we can all see
on video speaks to the belief of American law enforcement that the public will obey it,
regardless of what we can see with our own eyes."
"Chicago PD statement on the United passenger is a model of why so many people don't trust police statements."
--Harry Siegel (on Twitter)
"Of course, the onus in this debacle was on United for overselling the flight, not on the
person who bought the ticket. The United CEO’s technocratic statement of apology for
having to “re-accommodate these customers” disgusts me, as does the defense that its
employees “followed established procedures”. When your procedures wind up with a
man drooling blood and saying “just kill me”, they’re not defensible.
I simply can’t believe a blond white woman would have been yanked around by a cop in
this way. She’d have threatened to sue, other passengers would have come to her aid,
and the whole flight would have been deplaned before she’d been assaulted like that.
Was it the refusal from an Asian man that prompted such a violent response? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Any possible Asian “model minority” status can be withdrawn at any time; refusal to defer
to authority would quickly revoke that status. What message does this incident send to
Asians and Asian Americans? It reinforces that they had better obey, or else.
There’s some deeply contextual US history behind a cop taking control of an Asian man’s body
on behalf of a corporation. Asian bodies have been violently moved by the US and American
corporations alike, from the use of Chinese immigrants for the dangerous work of building
the transcontinental railroad after the American civil war, to their rejection via the Chinese Exclusion
Act of 1882, to Japanese internment during the second world war.
Asian bodies are routinely erased from American history in our curriculum, as they are by
way of whitewashing and yellowface in contemporary visual culture – for example in
Ghost in the Shell, Doctor Strange, Aloha and The Great Wall. But thanks to United Airlines,
an Asian body has been made visible in a way Hollywood couldn’t ever manage – as a
subject of real-life state violence."
Steven Thrasher has written a generally eloquent and insightful commentary.
I would add that overt racism against Asians in the USA is much more common and accepted
than the mainstream US media reports because Asian Americans have so little influence in the media.
The misleadingly overhyped 'model minority' status of (some) Asian Americans depends chiefly
upon being trusted enough by white people in power that Asian Americans will not challenge,
criticize, or even question them and appear content to embrace completely subordinate roles.
To this day, highly qualified Asian American applicants are routinely rejected for leadership
positions because they supposedly are intrinsically inferior in leadership or communication skills.
Unfortunately, almost all discussions of racism or civil rights in the USA like to act as
though racism's a major problem only for black or brown people, but not for Asians.