The Asian man who on Sunday was dragged off a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville, for refusing to give up his seat, has been a public relations disaster for the airline, especially in China.
There was early speculation in China that the victim was Chinese. He has now been identified as David Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky physician of Vietnamese origin, but the fact that the man was Asian is a strong theme in much of the Chinese social media response. By the end of Tuesday afternoon in China, there had been over 200 million views on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, for the hashtag #UnitedForcesPassengerOffPlane and a lot of people called for a boycott.
According to Vincent Ni, an editor at BBC Chinese, the reaction on Chinese social media has been one of widespread outrage. It’s been very overwhelming, and most of the comments are very angry towards United Airlines. "A lot of people involved in these discussions mention race — a lot. That is part of the big reason why it has attracted so much attention."
Dr. Dao suffered a concussion, broken nose, damaged sinuses and lost two front teeth when he was pulled from his seat and dragged off the flight according to his lawyer, Thomas Demetrio.
China is the most populous nation on Earth and is one of the largest aviation markets in the world. United Airline is the largest US carrier in China and operates 20 percent of the routes between China and the US.
Lessons for African-Americans
Asians didn't wait for an investigation, the video told them everything they needed to know. They didn't march or protest, they quickly united together by calling for a boycott against United.
The strong reaction by Asians and others prompted United Airlines to quickly change their narrative. The went from blaming the passenger to apologizing and admitting that they did something wrong.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz originally said the passenger was "disruptive and belligerent" and employees "followed established procedures," and told employees he "emphatically" stood behind them. By Tuesday, Munoz stated:
"The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.
"I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.
"It's never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what's broken so this never happens again."
United We Stand, Divide we Fall
How many videos of African-Americans being abused or even murdered have we seen with no satisfactory result? Last year we posted, "Where protest fails, violence prevails". As stated then, we need to inflict economic pressure, a sort of consumer violence to get the companies we support to start supporting us back.
African-American Mizzou football players successfully used economic violence as they supported Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike by threatening not to play. Mizzou could have lost millions of dollars. Public support of WNBA players taking a stand against police shootings was another time economic violence was successful. Unfortunately, African-American commnunities do not more effectively use economic pressure more effectively when members of the community are systemically treated unfairly.
Until and unless we cause economic pain when African-Americans are abused, we will continue to experience physical and emotional pain caused by police brutality. Additionally, we need to practice Pan-Africanism. The Asian reaction to the abuse of Dr. Dao should serve as an example for African-Americans. When people of African descent in other parts of the world experience crisis, we should react.
Africa was home to the richest man of all time, Masa Musa. Much of Africa's wealth was stolen, including its people, during European colonization. Many of Africa's resources are still under colonial control. Africa currently contains approximately 30 percent of the Earth's remaining mineral resources, including gold, diamonds, and oil. Even though Africa's population has been ravaged by war, political strife, genocide, colonization, drought, hunger, Aids, Ebola and more, it is home to more than 1.2 billion people.
The United States has a black population of about 43 million. The Black press in the United States needs to build partnerships with the press in Africa and other areas with large concentrations of people of African descent and report about their issues. Syria is not the only nation experiencing a crisis. However, charity starts at home and we need to put our differences behind and work together. Black churches, organizations, activist, celebrities and supporters need to start forming alliances to create a more coordinated response to issues affecting our community.
As Malcolm X stated in his, "Ballot or the Bullet," speech,
"You and I – as I say, if we bring up religion we’ll have differences; we’ll have arguments; and we’ll never be able to get together. But if we keep our religion at home, keep our religion in the closet, keep our religion between ourselves and our God, but when we come out here, we have a fight that’s common to all of us against an enemy who is common to all of us."
The United States government routinely dismisses the civil rights and humanitarian issues in African-American communities. The U.S. quickly intercedes in areas such as Syria under the guise of humanitarian relief, but ignores similar or worse situations in Africa. Below are the top countries outside of Africa and the United States with the largest populations of people of African descent.
- Brazil – 97 million,
- Haiti – 10.4 million
- Dominican Republic – 7.6 million,
- Colombia – 5 million,
- France – 3 – 5 million,
- Cuba – 3.9 million,
- Venezuela – 3.9 million,
- Jamaica – 2.8 million,
- England – 1.9 million,
- Italy – 1 million
Unfortunately, people of African descent suffer racism and economic oppression all over the globe. For example in England, although the African population is better educated than the white population, 26 percent of the blacks have had at least some college education compared 13 percent of the whites, however, the black community faces greater unemployment and poverty rates. Data shows that half of Black Africans in the UK live in low-income households compared to 20 percent of white people.
Colonial powers became experts of divide and conquer strategies which to this day prevent people of African descent from joining together to improve their economic and political position. During slavery, African tribes and nations were coerced into the slave trade, Willie Lynch style practices were adopted during slavery, the FBI sabotaged the Marcus Garvey back to Africa movement, white jealousy of Black prosperity resulted in the destruction of Tulsa's Black Wall Street, the government targeted civil rights leaders, black organizations became dependent on donations from white corporations and government funding and are now held hostage by threats of defunding if they work too aggressively on behalf of the oppressed, it is believed that Muammar Gaddafi may have been targeted because he was trying to unite African nations under a single currency backed by the vast resources of Africa.