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Why the friendly skies aren’t so friendly to the Dr. David Daos

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 4/20/2017, 6 a.m.

Louisville MD David Dao has so far taken the high road in the furor over his getting mauled, manhandled, and then summarily booted from a United Airlines flight. He has expressed thanks and appreciation to the thousands who have cheered and expressed their outrage over his mistreatment by United. Now that’s a sharp contrast to what Dao reportedly said and shouted before his ejection. He minced no words and said that he was being kicked off because “I’m Chinese.”

There is, of course, no smoking gun evidence that Dao was singled out because he’s Chinese; no slurs at him by any of the agents that confronted him, and no discernible pattern of booting other Asian passengers from United or any other airlines. However, there are several reasons that the Dao ejection rams the issue of racial profiling back into ugly glare. The rules on who can or can’t get bumped from a flight are hardly the model of precision. They include such things as whether passengers can conveniently catch a connecting flight, to unaccompanied minors, to those with disabilities. The selection process then pretty much boils down to a judgment call by the airlines. And it was that seemingly less than randomness that instantly prompted Dao to scream that he was singled out because he was Chinese. The horrendous, cover-your-rear statement by United CEO Oscar Munoz that Dao was being belligerent and thus he got, and deserved, the roughhouse treatment simply confirmed that Munoz was not simply a clueless CEO, but had rushed to typecast Dao as the villain in the sorry drama.

If that wasn’t enough, the dirt quickly flew about Dao. The narrative was no longer that Dao was a respected doctor, brutalized by the dictate of an insensitive airlines, and strong arm cops. Now he was a doctor with a shady past. He was convicted of drug dealing and had his license suspended. Unless United and the cops that bounced him from the plane were clairvoyants, there was no way they could know this. And even if they did there’s nothing in any of the overbearing guidelines about who can or can’t be bumped from a flight that someone convicted of a crime must get the boot from an overbooked flight. It was the hideous old ploy that we’ve seen time and again when police are on the hot seat for gunning down or brutalizing a minority. That is dig up any dirt, usually a criminal record of the victim, and plaster it all over the front pages. The implication being that the victim was a bad guy and deserved what he got.

In 2016, the mounting allegations of racial profiling on airlines raised the hackles of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus. It sent a pointed letter to an airlines industry group demanding to know the policy of the airlines in regard to dealing with Arab and Muslim passengers. By then the screams of “flying while Muslim” on airlines had risen to a roar. It had prompted several lawsuits and protests by Muslims over alleged profiling that included being subject to detention, given the third degree during security checks, and being ejected from a flight.