Some of you have likely heard about Vance Gilbert and the racism he experienced while flying United Airlines (Vance wrote a post on his blog about it, and various news sites have picked it up, not to mention the speed at which social networks transmitted the information). I am still baffled by the whole thing. Of course, that’s part of my privilege: I get to be baffled rather than humiliated and frustrated. I get to live in a world existence where I can be flabbergasted that a man reading about vintage airplanes was considered a potential terrorist for a short period of time. On most days I consider myself to be paranoid and anxious, yet I never have to be concerned about the color of my skin arousing suspicion.
In a follow-up post about the responses he has received concerning his letter and public humiliation Vance Gilbert wrote:
See, Black people not only live in the day to day world, but we live somewhere between total race paranoia and absolute to-the-letter stereotype. We people of color certainly aren’t done coming to terms with eons of inequality and racism, and we carry its residual madness, uninvitedly, everywhere. I’m first to admit that. We are no more totally realized individuals than you are.
And let’s be clear, I didn’t get snatched off of a plane because I was Black. Nor was I removed just because I was reading an antique book of aviation. It’s the combo plate that set this thing in motion. Paranoia needs a hook for its coat. That hook has historically been race, religion, and such, and we work like dogs to teach our children otherwise.
We will tell the truth to our children, and to your children, that there is no difference between people no matter their color, for as long as we can.
Then we will lie to our children, and to your children, for as long as we can about how people do not look at each other differently thanks to hue and shade.
Then at some point, these children will learn that we weren’t done, and that so much is up to them.
The post contains some really great responses from people who have contacted Vance on the matter. I’m glad he decided to share them with us. I recommend you pop over and check them out. Also, be sure to tell United Airlines how this situation was not okay and they need to address it ASAP. We need to stand behind folks who are fighting the fight (if we can, of course). Here is a response I thought was the best:
But you know what, I too—a white man—have been profiled: 6 times out of 10 if I go to a discount store in a non-white neighborhood I get someone coming to me asking me questions as if I am the store manager. And when I stop them and say no? Sometimes they think I am security or a cop. Now, do they ever say “Sorry, I thought you were in a position of power here because you are white and this is a discount store so why else are you here…” Never. But that is what happens. Doesn’t happen to me in Chinatown or Little Odessa… Only in non-white neighborhoods. You know why? Because America still has some massive race issues to deal with. And it does go both ways. But as a white person in America the chances of me being negatively racially profiled because I am white are pretty much zilch.