Conversations were occurring after footage last week made the rounds of Dr. David Dao being dragged off a United Airlines plane for refusing to give up his seat and be reassigned to another flight due to an apparent overbooking. But the topics discussed, and the narratives which became most public, left out or diminished greatly the presence of police brutality and how it can and does transcend racial and class lines.
As a country struggling to facilitate a true conversation on race, privilege and oppression, America – where some journalists and civil rights leaders portray police brutality as a social ill exclusive to one community rather than one that disproportionately impacts a particular population but is nonetheless pervasive in our society – by not addressing the full context of the disturbing incident, squandered an opportunity to highlight and analyze the far-reaching powers of policing and determine whether its not only appropriate, but reflective of a society where we want to reside.
At the heart of the conversation we’re not having, is the question of whether Americans need to invite the police into every moment of tension. If we’re constantly shocked at a police officer’s inability to de-escalate, what does that say about the public, and the fact that in many instance we’re unable to smother the fire that’s stoked by those closest to us.
Instead of getting to the heart of the matter – sure, the incident aboard a United Airlines plane was about bad customer service and maybe even bad policy, but when those things result in a passenger being confronted by authorities and left with a broken nose, a concussion, and missing teeth, it’s more so an issue of police brutality – the news media spotlighted the unflattering past of Dr. Dao – a hint of victim of blaming, I detected – and the business of the embattled airline.
The real issue which caused the United Airlines incident was buried by the news media. And for all the focus on Dr. Dao’s sketchy past, it’s a win for him that a new video has emerged that shows him speaking reasonably to officials, and explaining that he’s a physician who has to work tomorrow, rather than being belligerent, which is how United Airlines’ CEO, Mr. Oscar Munoz, described him.
Mr. Munoz has since taken responsibility for the incident, and characterized the whole ordeal as a “watershed moment” for the company. This could also be a watershed moment for America; it could change how we talk about policing, use of force and those impacted by it. Even though a week or so has been wasted focusing on the wrong things, like Mr. Dao’s past, it’s never too late to do the right thing, which is to frame the United Airlines incident as another tragic tale of when American policing goes wrong.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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