Tamika Mallory incident reignites conversation on ‘flying while Black’

Cyril Josh Barker | 10/16/2017, 5:59 p.m.
Activist Tamika Mallory’s account of what happened to her on Sunday when she was booted off of an American Airlines ...
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Activist Tamika Mallory’s account of what happened to her on Sunday when she was booted off of an American Airlines flight from Miami to New York went viral getting hundreds of thousands of views.

In the nearly 30-minute video on Facebook Live, Mallory said that after she had a dispute with a gate agent about seating, she was confronted by a white pilot whom she said asked her if she would be a "a problem on this flight."

Mallory and her traveling companion, hip hop artist Mysonne, were both removed from the plane and later put on another flight. American Airlines gave no explanation as why they were ejected from the flight.

The incident has put the issue of “flying while Black” into the forefront as Mallory claims that her race played a role in why America Airlines mistreated her.

“In the last 24 hours since it happened, I’ve seen story after story about how other airlines have been mistreating people of color,” she said in an interview Monday with the AmNews. “We need to go from airlines apologizing and giving drink and food vouchers to airlines making policy changes.”

Mallory’s experience is one that appears to be commonplace for frequent Black travelers who say airline employees mistreated them on various airlines.

Earlier this year American Airlines was accused of racial targeting by political strategist and former Sen. Bernie Sanders press secretary Symone Sanders. She claimed the airline called the police on her over an incident about luggage.

“American Airlines [sic]officials literally called the police to come to the gate check area because the customer service officials were threatened,” she said on Twitter back in May.

Poet and activist Imani Cezanne said she was forcibly removed from an American Airlines flight in Atlanta in March. In a series of tweets, Cazanne said she questioned a flight attendant after a couple was moved in an exit row for not being able to speak English.

“While speaking with the woman next to me about my concerns was interrupted by FA (flight attendant) and asked ‘Are you going to be a problem?’,” she said.

Civil rights activist and North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Williams Barber was also a victim of ‘flying while Black’ in 2016 when he was kicked off of an American Airlines flight. Barber said he complained about two white men sitting in front of him who appeared to be intoxicated.

Barber said that he informed a flight attendant about the men’s behavior and they cursed and berated him. He was later ordered off of the plane after police officers asked the two white men what happened and complained about Barber.

“To be born two days after the March on Washington and still have to deal with this kind of racism and discrimination, it’s troubling,” he said.

As for Mallory’s situation, she said no one from American Airlines contacted her on Monday. She is holding a press conference on Tuesday to address what happened and her next steps.

American Airlines said in a statement that they are looking into what happened. The AmNews has reached out to the airline and is awaiting further response.