The NAACP issued a travel advisory last week warning black Americans to be cautious when flying American Airlines, and of course, it brought criticism. This criticism stems from the notion that racism isn’t as prevalent or that minorities aren’t disadvantaged by society — that black people are too sensitive. The hashtag #FlyingWhileBlack emerged as a platform for black flyers to share their experiences.
A black woman was removed from her first class seat and separated from her white travel companion when she was switched to the coach section. Another man was kicked off his flight after responding to disrespectful and racist comments directed toward him by two white passengers. People’s use of #FlyingWhileBlack reveals real racial bias.
But even in the face of incidents of racial bias, some Americans openly criticize black people when they speak out about their discriminatory experiences. Black individuals are simply existing or standing up for themselves, but instead of receiving solidarity, they are silenced. To critics, black people can’t be the victim, as they are busy being criminals. And as criminals, we are seen as less worthy of respect.
Tamika D. Mallory, a victim of racial prejudice spoke out on Twitter, saying, “The American Airlines pilot, before kicking me off the plane, asked me ‘Are you gonna behave?’ As if I’m not a grown woman worthy of respect.” Racial bias is a relevant and continuous problem that deserves to be addressed, not silenced.
People should be cautious when criticizing or judging individuals on experiences they cannot encounter themselves because it only hinders us from ending racist prevalence in society. Speaking out about wrongdoings is a courageous act that should be acknowledged. It would be wrong to criticize Mallory or any of the other victims when they express their concerns because shutting out an entire group will not solve the problem.
Criticizing their experiences only furthers racial divisions because it reflects a lack of understanding. It takes a lot to speak out about racism, and criticizing other’s fears and experiences will only frighten people away from speaking out. We have to be willing to look beyond our own experiences and view the world through someone else’s eyes to begin to comprehend their struggles.
Racism exists, and denying that will only further discrimination. In order to eradicate racism, we need to acknowledge and address it. It’s time we stop speaking out on issues we don’t fully understand. Silencing black people because we don’t quite understand or relate to their experience is wrong.
McLean is an English junior from Houston.