Tuesday morning, several passengers were removed from a Chicago-bound flight out of Baltimore when a woman saw one of them looking at a news broadcast on his phone. He was of Middle Eastern descent. When the plane was taxiing, she grabbed her child and ran to the rear of the plane to alert the crew to what she deemed as “suspicious behavior.”
The captain decided to return to the gate. The two passengers sitting next to the “suspicious” man were asked to exit the plane. Those two passengers were traveling with the woman who initially ran down the aisle and alerted the crew, according to an eyewitness account by a woman on the plane. A few minutes later, the eyewitness claims “they come back and demand the man ‘who wasn’t traveling with them’ to grab his belongings and to get off the aircraft immediately.” The eyewitness then claims the crew called five more passengers off the plane “3 of which appeared to be of different Middle Eastern & African ethnicities.” Finally, they deboarded the entire plane.
One of the men was released about 10:45 a.m. and the other three about an hour later with no charges.
Sgt. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority told the Chicago Tribune:
“We did not find any criminal activity or violations of any kind and they were free to do what they pleased at that point. One of the three males was sitting next to a female passenger and apparently he was watching a media report. I don’t know of what nature it was, but given current events, I can imagine what it was.”
“Being in her shoes, I’m guessing that combined with what she saw or heard created some concerns for her,” Green said. “She told the flight crew, which was most likely a flight attendant, and they spoke to the captain and the captain made the choice to go back to the terminal.”
The “suspicious” man was of Middle Eastern descent, as I mentioned earlier. The eyewitness says on her Facebook post about the account:
I make it a point to mention the race because unless you’ve been living under a rock, ISIS is in fact a serious, present day threat to the entire world right now. Although anyone of any ethnicity and race could do wrong and/or be a member of that sick group, they are in fact a Middle Eastern terrorist group. I am not racist by ANY means [this last phrase was later edited out of the post], but I appreciate the amount of security the law enforcement has shown today. Had it been any other individual, regardless of ethnicity, religion or color, this protocol would have STILL happened the way it did. From what I understood later on, the woman exited her seat abruptly to make known of a possible concern about the people in front of her. As irony would have it, the people were in fact of Middle Eastern decent.
Can we all just accept and admit that the only reason the woman made a sprint toward the back of the plane with her child and caused an over three hour delay was because she was afraid of the Middle Eastern man she was sharing a flight with? When the passenger who witnessed the ordeal says, “Had it been any other individual, regardless of ethnicity, religion or color, this protocol would have STILL happened the way it did” — she’s dead wrong. Because there never would have been a panic if the man was not Middle Eastern.
This plane was grounded for three hours because a woman made an assumption that she was not safe around someone of Middle Eastern descent. The eyewitness ends her post with, “I’d rather live in a country that’s overprotective and profiles certain people for protection, than having to bury my sister after she was murdered at a concert.”
Those are not the only two choices.
Racial profiling does not make you safer. If it did, we’d all be walking around terrified of white men, since they commit the most mass murders in this country. But we aren’t terrified of white men. We’re terrified of people who are different than us. This type of paranoia is unjustifiable, and frankly, criminal. We are on the wrong side of history if we don’t recognize that.
Of course there is fear after the string of terrorist attacks that have taken place over the last weeks. But I refuse to live in a world where I teach my children to be afraid of someone because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the region of the world they are from. What kind of world is that?
It’s normal to be gripped by fear after watching a constant loop of horrific stories of tragic events. But you have to come back down to reality eventually and realize that painting a broad stroke on an entire region of the world is ignorance at its worst. We’re attempting to close our borders to refugees — who are predominantly women and children — we’re openly justifying racism in viral Facebook posts, we’re looking at fellow citizens with alarm and suspicion merely because of their ethnicity, and a huge percentage of us sees nothing wrong with any of this. You would be hard-pressed to find someone presently who says that they agree with the Japanese internment camps of the forties. But this type of fear-mongering rings an eerie bell. Those actions were a result of racism and discrimination — not any credible threat of danger.
Fear does not justify racism. When my children are old enough to absorb this lesson, all I’ll have to do is show them screenshots of dozens of Facebook posts that attest that it does — and explain that all of those people are scared, not right.