The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is, yet again, doing work for the culture. The 108-year-old organization issued a travel advisory for American Airlines after several documented racist incidents occurred on the airline’s planes. A travel advisory is an official warning that agencies issue to inform travelers of safety concerns abroad—usually pertaining to civil or political unrest, natural disasters, and other dangers. In an unusual—and bold—move, the NAACP issued an advisory for an airline and not a specific destination because of safety concerns after a series of unsettling incidents involving Black travelers.
The statement was released just days after activist Tamika Mallory was removed from a flight after getting into a dispute with an airline employee. Mallory, who helped organize the Women’s March, took to Twitter and Facebook Live to document the event and call out the bigotry she faced.
“Only reason this pilot got involved was to assert his white male power over who he thought was just some uppity black girl,” Mallory tweeted.
The NAACP described how enduring discriminatory practices had become the norm for passengers of color—particularly Black passengers.
The NAACP cited four incidents of racial injustice against customers and expressed concerns that the incidents suggested “a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.” According to the statement, an African-American man was forced to relinquish his seats on a flight because he responded to discriminatory comments from two white passengers. In another incident, a Black woman was forced to give up her first-class tickets and move to coach while her white companion was allowed to remain in first class. The NAACP described how enduring discriminatory practices had become the norm for passengers of color—particularly Black passengers.
“As we look at some of the shifts our country has made with the election of Donald Trump, we’re looking to improve our ability to be more effective given the realities of our country today,” Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, told the Washington Post. “We have to adjust our approach accordingly.”
Black folks are often subjected to racism of all forms, and having to deal with it on the plane to get to another state or country is a slap in the face.
According to the NAACP, an American Airlines executive reached out to the NAACP to schedule a meeting, hopefully sending a signal to all major corporations that they must address problems with discrimination from the top down. A travel advisory like this is more than just about American Airlines, because within the travel industry Black folks are often subjected to racism of all forms, and having to deal with it on the plane to get to another state or country is a slap in the face. Black people are routinely ignored when these issues arise, and the NAACP is making the case that corporations can no longer expect Black travelers to fork over their money when they’re being devalued or mistreated.
Earlier, in June 2017, the NAACP issued its first-ever travel advisory for the state of Missouri, citing incidents of unchecked police brutality, homophobia, and attacks on Black students in public schools in the state. Perhaps travel advisories are a new way to organize against injustice—what remains to be seen is whether politicians and corporations will listen.