Posted by Kathy Liang
In the month of April, 2017, a United Airlines plane, headed for Louisville, just finished its boarding process. They needed four volunteers to leave the plane in order to create space for United employees. An airline supervisor had announced that if four passengers did not leave, the plane would not go anywhere. After passengers refused to volunteer, even when offered vouchers to rebook, the airline crew members took action and chose four passengers to leave the aircraft. Three of the four chosen passengers complied to the request reluctantly. However, the last passenger was a Chinese doctor named David Dao who refused to leave the plane because he needed to get to his patients through the flight.
In response to his refusal, the airline called the Chicago Department of Aviation to send in officers to deal with the situation. Three police officers arrived and Dr.Dao continued to refuse disembarking. Witnesses reported that the officers had yanked Dao out of his seat and his head had hit the armrest of a neighboring chair, causing contusions to his head. Other passengers had recorded this incident on their phones and passengers can be heard disapproving the actions of the officers.
It is unclear whether or not race played a factor in this mishap. Many people believe that race was not an important factor to his treatment but rather it was his disobedience to police authorities. Contrary to this belief, others feel that the officers had targeted Dr. Dao due to his race and the dismissal of his race in articles exposed the erasure of Asian American issues and the idea of model minority. This caused the media to draw attention to the online movement #ChineseLivesMatter. This movement received some backlash because it appropriated #BlackLivesMatter and excluded other Asian communities in an attempt to spread awareness about the issues people of Chinese descent face. Although it was unjust for Dr. Dao to be handled this way, as a passenger who rightfully deserved a spot in plane, I believe that “#ChineseLivesMatter” is not justifiable by the United Airlines incident. Personally, I don’t see a correlation between the victim’s race and the way he was treated. Just looking into the actions of the officers, I think they were put into a tight situation where they would have had to put more people in inconvenience if they did not take passengers off the plane, so they were pressured to act irrationally.