Carol Platt Liebau: Racism in the Air?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Racism in the Air?

A black celebrity -- being considered as a Star Jones replacement on "The View" -- claims that she was mistreated on a United flight because of racism. These situations are always difficult to sort out, because there are three possible alternatives: (1) Racism was indeed a factor; (2) the celebrity misbehaved in a way that would have caused a problem, whatever her race; (3) the flight attendants were jerks, and would have mistreated a white celebrity in the same way.

One of the difficulties of being rich (so I've been told) is that it's almost impossible to know who your real friends are. One of the great difficulties in being part of a minority group is never knowing whether you're being mistreated because of your race.

But it's worth pointing out that the oppression of idiot flight attendants isn't exclusively visited on African Americans. A couple years ago, when Winston was traveling with me (completely in accordance with all regulations), an insane, dog-hating stewardess refused to even allow his head out of his Sherpa bag so he could get air (he's never allowed to set foot out in any case, given the dirty conditions of most planes). Winston's manners are impeccable; the stewardess' were anything but.

When I objected politely to her attitude and her behavior and asked for another flight attendant, she tried to get me to sign a statement, binding under federal law, that I had "disrupted the flight" (right -- like that was going to happen). Finally, after some time, another flight attendant intervened and apologized on behalf of the airline.

Had I been black, I might have suspected racism. But as it turns out, it was simply that the stewardess was nuts -- or, as the letter of apology I later received from the airline delicately put it, "in need of a long vacation."


Blogger amber said...

My daughter recently asked me what a "cracker" was and I told her it is supposed to be a mean thing to call white people. She laughed and said that was funny. Then we went into what kind of crackers we would be, she said she is a ritz or a melba wheat toast and I am a saltine. She is a great kid and extrememly sensative. I often hope she does not have to face descrimination because of her color.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Dittohead said...


This is a friendly reminder. Under your post of 7/25 “The UN: Already Part of the Problem “ a request was made for you to provide links to credible sources proving your statement that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling WMDs.

10:03 AM  
Blogger dodger said...

Accepting the three premises, any of which could be correct, what should one do?

Well, as John Wayne said, "Life is tough. It's tougher if you are stupid."

I'm not saying anyone involved in the incident was stupid, I'm just saying it would be stupid to respond "disproportionately."

Now if I am walking down the street and someone I've never seen in my life punches me in the nose, would it be proportionate for me to break his leg? (It would.)

If he called me a name? It would still be proportionate...but stupid.

10:05 AM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

Lemme back this train (plane) up a bit:

Nobody, of any group, has an inalienable right to a flight. The behavior from the attendants may well have been rude, and that's unfortunate. But their rules are their rules.

Second, WHY is a hairdryer being allowed on board? The hair of Monique (sp) is not that important. She may not equate that with a weapon, but I could see it. Hair dryers have metal (or very hard plastic), and wires, and the ability to become very hot.

Airlines confiscate nail files, f'crying out loud. They'd have been justified in confiscating a hairdryer. How does that get a pass?

Third Carol, to put your point on the other foot, if you wouldn't know how bad racism can get, how would a member of an aggrieved group know where it stops?

More simply: Was she called a name? Did she see someone in comparable circumstance get significantly better treatment? The article doesn't address either question. If the answer to both of those questions is "no," what is the evidence?

Racism in this nation is a deep, deep wound. This is not a charge to just be throwing about in absence of evidence.

10:53 AM  
Blogger suek said...

>>This is a friendly reminder. Under your post of 7/25 “The UN: Already Part of the Problem “ a request was made for you to provide links to credible sources proving your statement that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling WMDs.>>

The article didn't say that Saddam was "stockpiling WMDs". The article says "It was the UN dithering that allowed Saddam Hussein to delude himself that he could go on keeping (or pretending to keep) stocks of WMD". Not the same thing.

Nevertheless, here's a site of multiple articles, some of which are concerning the Santorum/Hoekstra fuss, some are about translations of Saddams official papers captured after we captured Bagdad. Perhaps you'll find them interesting.
Before you start the "they only found xx weapons containing degraded chemicals, the point is two-fold - a) he lied when he said they were _all_ destroyed, and
b) the UN inspectors were unable to find them due to official deception. Oh yes...and a third point. Since you can't prove a negative, we don't really know that there are not more of them out there, even if we haven't found them. Although the Israelis may find them in the next few weeks. I hope not.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Dittohead said...


Santorum has already been discredited in a congressional arms committee hearing by Rep Duncan Hunter(R).

Your arguments and links are too weak.

Saddam wasn't pretending to keep WMDs. He filed his report. He said he disarmed and he allowed WMD inspectors into his country. Bush is the one how pulled the inspectors out prematurely because they were finding nothing and Bush's case for war was falling apart.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Diane Tomlinson said...

I am a professional journalist, I have been in places so horrible to describe them here would have me banned from the comments section of this sensitive blog.(Note: you can rant and rave and call us anything you want on our political and social blog ;)

Girl, you can do better than that. While what you and your daughter was cute, and I commend you for your skill at disarming the situation and I was very happy, I reiterate very happy with you until that last sentence.

I have been white and female all my life and I have never felt discriminated against because of my color. My opinions have gotten me in some trouble along with my inability to keep my mouth shut in certain delicate situations.

Okay, I am rambling and I know there are prohibitions against persoanl attacks here but in the name of the wholesome goodness of Milano cookies are you talking about woman?

Who are these people that can discriminate against white people in America??? White people run things in the USA . . . hello??? . . . what color is the sky on your planet??? Don't worry about whether she will face discrimination in a country run by her tribe wonder if she'll have a country at all if better government isn't demanded by the People.


1:55 PM  
Blogger suek said...

>>Your arguments and links are too weak.>>

Why am I _not_ surprised...

2:46 PM  
Blogger suek said...

Apparently lots more history in the term "cracker" than I realized. Here's a link to wikipedia...lots of interesting info...

>>Don't worry about whether she will face discrimination in a country run by her tribe>>

You're assuming she's white...I'm not sure you're correct...(even disregarding the question about the affirmative action preferences that have been raised recently)

2:58 PM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

In another life many moons ago, I was a journalist too. (I was and continue to be white.) My throat having been cleared,

Diane -- Why then is race even tracked during college admissions?

3:13 PM  
Blogger Diane Tomlinson said...


I have no idea. Pedrsonally, i think people should get into college on their merit. I don't believe in affirmative action


3:26 PM  
Blogger amber said...

For the reecord, I am white, my daughter is not. I have faced some cruel remarks from black women and some racist treatment from black people, but I don't take things personally, I tend to say that it is their problem, not mine. However, my daughter is extremely sensative about everything, she needs to be "normal". This is not something she got from me, however, being the only dark skinned person in a family of scandinavians may be part of the problem. Since you said you are white, imagine yourself as a child in an all black family, would you be sensative to your differances?

HOS, I agree no one has the right to be treated a certain way when they choose to fly. What I disagree with is that statment connotes that people can be treated differantly and that is where you lost me. If your going to treat people like poo, then treat everyone like poo; but if you decide who is worthy of kindness and respect and who is not then you are descriminating against them and there are laws against that. As a consumer, I know I need to do certain things to get better treatment, unfortunately. I give bigger tips than normal, I do not go to my jewlers wearing sweat pants (they would know who I was, but not appreciate my lack of respect for their business). So, some bad treatment can be attributed to lack of care in your appearance, if you look like you care about yourself, then others are more likely to care as well. Kindness and compassion is another way to gain good treatment, whenever I am disgusted by service I try and think of how happy I would be to clean up after others for $6.50 an hour. Despite these things there are still people who will descriminate based on monetary status, race, faith, and who we choose to surround ourselves with. It will never go away, but corporations who serve such a wide group of people, like airlines, should make it a practice to never descriminate and if they do, they should promptly appologize. And while you are working for a company that is against descrimination, you do not have the right to do it, you area a mouthpiece for that organization.

2:21 AM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

Amber - If I may -

"That statement connotes" . . . to whom? Connotation is in the eye of the reader, not the writer. What I wrote (and meant) is that no one has an inalienable right to fly. I never said or meant (or even recall thinking) that different people should be treated differently.

What I have seen, now that you have gone there, is numerous celebrities (of all backgrounds) expecting and DEMANDING different treatment, by virtue of who they are. John "Do You Know Who I Am?" Kerry has a number of legends following his name for this very thing. This "my celebrity trumps the existing policy of the airline" sounds suspiciously like a case of that.

As for kindness and respect: Airline officials go through a lot. And now they're supposed to accept a hairdryer for no good reason? And face a charge of racism if they object to something that could legitimately be a danger? Where's the respect for them? Were I an authority on the plane, I'd seriously consider confiscating it.

And speaking of respect, if you want me to respect your point of view, please try to run your words through the spell-check. Spelling properly, for me, tells me that you want me to respect your point of view. I would very much like to be able to, but I can hardly be persuaded by someone who couldn't even be bothered to proofread.

As for discrimination: You are assuming it, asserting it, instead of establishing it. I haven't seen any facts emerge to establish it.

7:51 AM  
Blogger amber said...

HOS, sorry if you don't like that I do not spell check. I do not have the time. Honestly, I do not think spelling is all that important.
I did not say that you said people should be treated differantly, I said that your statement sounds like it, I am not assuming you feel that way.
I agree that many celbrities feel that they should be given special treatment. I was refering to Carol talking about times when she was not sure about the motivation behind bad treatment.
I am not sure if you are refering to me when I said I have faced black on white racism and it was not proven, if you are I will respond to that: A large black woman bocking my way to the restroom telling me "I hate white people" is pretty clear to me. I just tolk her "hu. OK." and I walked around her. Having a black man look at me and say he thinks white people are racist because when he walks down the road they lock their doors and then in the same breath saying that white people do not belong in his neighborhood and would not last long is very clear to me too. Being a woman, overhearing someone refering to me "you mean the one with the big t@#$s" is also pretty clearly a violation. Sadly, most people who are racist, do not have trouble hiding it. I had to listen to joke after joke about white people while I was in basic training and I finally got sick of it and told them the only joke I had ever heard, they stopped and realized their hypocracy.
I was not attacking you personally, but you seem to have taken it as such.
' "That statement connotes" . . . to whom?' To me. I was not saying that was what you said, that is just what I thought it sounded like. Sorry for the confusion.

9:57 AM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

OK Amber - not taking it personally. But let's break this down:

"HOS, sorry if you don't like that I do not spell check. I do not have the time. Honestly, I do not think spelling is all that important."

All three statements are wrong. It's not whether I "like" misspellings or don't like it. It's whether I take your arguments seriously or not.

Second, "I do not have the time." You had time to write three long posts in this thread. If you have time to write that much, you have time to check your work.

If it helps, it's not just you. Carol is guilty of this too. She waxes about her legal education and experience, and then golfs up the dumbest typos. DT, meanwhile, in a single post boasts of being a professional journalist and then has spelling and punctuation snafus here and there.

Finally, "spelling is [not] all that important." Sorry - wrong again. Spelling and grammar are important. They are the verbal equivalent of decent clothes and hygiene.

It's not personal. If you can't be troubled to dress properly, why should I afford you the time of day, much less a job?

Proper dress is a sign of respect. It tells the other person, you are important enough that I should dress properly around you.

Likewise, if you can't be troubled to at least proofread, if you can't pay me (or any other reader) the respect of checking your work before sending it in, in effect you are saying that you don't have time to respect my perspective - and therefore you don't have time to be taken seriously. So, why should I take your arguments seriously?

(If it helps, it's not just you. I kind of wish the entire Democratic party would grasp this concept.)

As for discrimination or lack thereof, I was talking about the plane. I had no thought whatsoever about your experience, but sorry it worked out as you describe. No one should have to be treated as something lesser than human.

10:33 AM  
Blogger amber said...

HOS, you think I am a democrat? Just asking because I am one of the strongest supporters of the war on terror, of our president, of Ann Coulter, of Rush Limbaugh.

I agree grammar is very important, but to me, spelling is not. Most of the time when I am commenting on or reading the blogs I am also IMing my husband and taking care of the kids. The only time I am at the computer is either when the kids are in bed or I am IMing. I have to type really fast so I do not miss my husband's replies and I am eager to get back to him. That is why I have not replied to a lot of political articles, no time to fact check. I am a very bad speller, I make no excuses for it. However, my math is darn near perfect, I get all of the zeros and onesin the right place, I do not know why my brain does not connect in regards to spelling. If it bothers you that much, don't read what I write, it is ok, I understand. It drives me bonkers when people use "that" when they should say "who" or "got" instead of "have", it gives me the same feeling as when a bullet lodges in the chamber instead of making the proper exit from the weapon. I do write the newsletter for the FRG (Family Readiness Group, for military families) and I take care to spell check that. I am just too tired, sorry.

9:22 PM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

I have no idea whether you're a Democrat or not. I mentioned the Democrats because their leadership as a whole seems not to understand that good presentation of an idea is important for the advancment of an idea.

Civilized behavior (Howard Dean) is part of good presentation. Good dress and not being a slob (Michael Moore) is part of good presentation. The company we keep (Jimmy Carter) is part of good presentation. Speech that is free of vulgarities (Whoopi Goldberg) is part of good presentation. So is good spelling.

I apologize in advance if you think I compared you with Moore, Carter, Dean, or Goldberg.

6:32 AM  

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