On Tuesday, NPR released the results from a survey it did of Americans and their experiences with discrimination. Though all racial groups said that they experience some form of discrimination (including whites, which is worth its own post), black Americans reported experiencing broad forms of discrimination—including interactions with police, trying to vote, and in renting/buying housing. While that in itself is not surprising, it is interesting to note that black people overwhelmingly believe that the racism they experience is because of the attitudes and beliefs of individuals they come into contact with and not necessarily attributed to systems and structures.
That belief directly contradicts a new travel advisory issued by the NAACP this week, which cautions black people from traveling on American Airlines.
“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the press release
said. “Booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”The statement cited four specific events in explaining its conclusion that the airline has a “corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias.”
While it’s tempting to believe that racism solely rests in the hearts and minds of individuals and can be fixed through awareness and consciousness-raising, it doesn’t account for large structures and organizations which have institutionalized certain practices that marginalize or harm blacks and other people of color. These are well-established patterns that have been present throughout the history of our country and there’s no proof that laws or supposed progress have magically fixed them. As the NAACP points out, there are several incidents that demonstrate American Airlines’ possible hostility to blacks. And while the four that they cite may not sound like a lot to some people, there are likely countless other incidents that have occurred to demonstrate that the company has work to do to be more inclusive—and not just to black passengers.