British Airways sucks, but India's own racism record sucks more
Will boycotting an airline stop racial discrimination of passengers, or Indians in general?
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Indians are angry, again. Upset with British Airways for deplaning a crying child and his parents, a lot of us on social media are threatening to boycott the airline.
AP Pathak, a senior bureaucrat, has accused the airline of racism as he claimed a crew member threatened to throw his three-year-old son out of the window if the child did not stop crying. The incident reportedly happened last month. He then wrote a letter to Union Ministers Suresh Prabhu and Sushma Swaraj, alleging racial discrimination. According to Pathak, a steward yelled at the family, saying, “You bloody keep quiet, otherwise you would be thrown out of the window.”
We were travelling to Berlin from London in British Airways, Our son started crying and a flight attendant came and threatened to offload us if our kid doesn't keep quiet and after a while, he called security and we were offloaded: A.P Pathak, Passenger pic.twitter.com/gFm47qgOIw— ANI (@ANI) August 9, 2018
British airways took concern on racism and inhuman behaviour. The alleged racical behaviour took place on British airways london Berlin flight on 23 July. Thanks to Media for raised the issue....We Indian are united. pic.twitter.com/r8gRKqqsLq— A P Pathak J S Level oficer Govt of India. (@APPathak4) August 9, 2018
According to Pathak, an Indian couple sitting behind them was also made to leave because they offered the child biscuits. Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the issue.
While British Airways has a long history of alleged discriminatory behaviour, Indians don't seem to be in the mood for reconciliation this time. Immediately after the news broke out, a lot of hurt Indians, including celebrities, called for boycotting the airline.
Racist. Dont fly British Airways.We cannot be kicked around. Sad to hear about the Berlin child incident. I stopped flying BA after the cabin crew were rude and had attitude not once but twice even after being a first class passenger. Fly Jetair or Emirates. There is dignity.— Rishi Kapoor (@chintskap) August 9, 2018
Shame on @British_Airways for terrorising a toddler and insulting his parents. I hope this insensitive act hurts their business! Dear fellow Indians - please choose any other airline.We don't need BA.They need us!— Shobhaa De (@DeShobhaa) August 9, 2018
Stop showing those fake and dishonest adverts about caring for Indians. How dare you discriminate and shout at children. Indian family offloaded from British Airways flight ‘over crying 3-yr-old’ #DontFlyBA @British_Airways https://t.co/ZLDTw703Ab— Yash Mahadik (@IndianYash) August 9, 2018
But is boycotting any airline a solution? Will that stop racial discrimination of passengers, or Indians in general?
Let's not get too defensive. Race is a delicate topic for Indians anyway, but aren't we getting too outraged by just one side of the story? This is not to say that the parents don't deserve our sympathies or the airline crew members are entitled to misbehave and abuse. But how does this become a war between Indians and British Airways?
It's true we must speak up against racial bias, but it's intriguing to see Indians uniting over one episode when we ourselves are guilty of everyday racism, subtle ways that we abuse each other, not to mention our own xenophobia and intolerance for outsiders. Last year, almost the entire country ganged up against African students studying in India following the death of a Class 12 student in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The student had died under mysterious circumstances, but locals alleged that the boy died after Nigerian students forced him to inhale drugs. Soon, the Nigerians were accused of cannibalism and several other students of African origin were brutally attacked by Indians.
Forget African students, we don't spare our fellow Indians from such brutal attacks — the "Chinkis" from Northeast and "kaale Madrasi" often find themselves facing such entitled Indians.
So, why does it hurt and infuriate us so much to know that a senior bureaucrat was humiliated by some airline staffer? Is this in anyway different from how we treat people we think don't belong here, or feel their presence is disturbing or threatening our security?
The alleged behaviour of the steward — which, by the way, none of us has actually seen — reeks of the same prejudice with which we Indians look at anyone who looks like an outsider to us. But when something similar happens to us, we start crying racial bias.
The latest episode, if anything, is a good opportunity to sharpen our conversations about racism. To look at our own prejudices and acknowledge them. How we discriminate against people based on their race and identity. To say that Indians are tolerant by nature and only politicians are stoking the communal fire is the excuse that we all want to get away with. It's not just the political class which is supposed to set the standard for racial harmony.
More often than not, we all play the role of bystanders to racism within our own nation. So, first, let's boycott that attitude. The attitude that "Indians are inherently tolerant and secular" in itself has a "racially superior" tone.
Our racism is hidden in our own homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces and our social media timelines. So, before pointing fingers at others, it would be advisable to clean up our own stables first.