At the time of writing this, United had lost about a billion dollars due to the controversial dragging of an individual off of a plane. Clearly, the internet and individuals all over the world are outraged. Within just a few days of the incident, there have been memes, commercials, and so much more making fun of United on an ample number of platforms.
Unfortunately, as usual, the internet did not get it right. Like with many instances, individuals focused on the hot topic of the week that is an easily shareable conversation, and ignored the systemic problems that are in place. Instead of rooting out the cause of this situation, and challenging ourselves to solve the problem, we're focusing on the thing that allows us to continue deflecting from this situation.
This is neither the first nor the last time this has or will happen. We, The People, focus on single incidents, view them as isolated, make the biggest deal out of them, ignore the relevant conversations we need to be having, and passively allow the problems to be brushed deep beneath the surface.
I was happy to see a few conversations start around police brutality. This is a huge step in the right direction, but this is still rare to see - and you need the right individuals in your life to see such a thing. The reality is that we still don't care about police brutality, disability rights, religious rights, or any other kinds of rights.
The reality is that United, as with most airlines, have done far worse in the past. This is not the first or last time someone will be dragged off of an airplane. You will continue having individuals with disabilities suffer under an Ableist system that the public continues to ignore. Individuals that look Muslim will continue to be thrown off of planes, and held for hours on end as they're interrogated for doing things as simple as doing math on planes.
The reality is that we have chosen to hold onto a single incident and ignore the rest. This is problematic, as we're continuing to uphold the systems that made this possible in the first place. What about the Black Woman that was dragged out of the Delta airplane just a few months ago as the other passengers were laughing? These things are not as uncommon as we'd like to think.
Also, the hypocricy in some of the other airlines is disturbing. I have flown with over twenty airlines to almost every region of the world, and in the end of the day, most airlines are the same. They are White Supremacist, Patriarchal, and Ableist.
It's great that we have drawn a line when it comes to discrimination for certain individuals, but unfortunately we are still ignoring the atrocities that happen on a daily basis in a systemically oppressive machine. If we weren't ignoring them, then United would not be the only Airline losing a billion dollars right now. We'd be discussing Disability Rights, Religious Rights, and Ignored Police Brutality for People of Color, and creating movements to shut the system down not transfer money from United to all the other Airlines.
So today I ask, where were we when they came for individuals for disabilities, for people of color, for Muslims? Where are we now? Because despite the outrage I still don't see allies to people with my intersectionality: Brown, Muslim, Foreign, and living with Mental Illness. All this is just scratching the surface of the wealth of forms of oppression available to you in the air.
This is just an example of selective outrage, not universal outrage over injustice, there is a difference.
So what can you do now? Here are a few conversations you can start having, as you're sharing the United content:
- Speak about this incident systemically, and not as a single incident.
- Speak out about the selective outrage this has received compared to other incidents.
- Discuss the systems of oppression that allowed this and other forms of injustice to happen.
In the end, there's nothing wrong with sharing this United incident, but we must be intentional in making real change and that requires addressing the true root cause, something we're not doing yet.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Founder and Executive Director of Life in My Days, Inc. He is the co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, and a Novelist. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.