An African-American civil rights leader was forcibly removed from an American Airlines flight after he responded to a racist comment by another passenger.
The Rev. William Barber, the head of North Carolina’s chapter of the NAACP, claimed he had purchased two seats on American Airlines Flight 5382 to sit comfortably after undergoing a painful arthritis surgery.
Although the civil rights activist was perfectly within his right to buy two seats for himself to ease his discomfort, the passenger sitting behind him had some issues. The man started his rant by referring to Barber as one of “those people” and made disparaging comments about his disability.
Although Barber complained to a flight attendant about the behavior of the passenger, all she did was to tell the passenger to “bring it down a little.”
As the verbal abuse escalated, Barber stood up to confront the man.
“I asked him why he was saying such things, and I said he did not know me, my condition, and I added I would pray for him,” Barber said.
At that point the captain announced a call for the flight to return to the gate for a disruptive passenger. An airline official approached and instead of rebuking and evicting the abusive passenger, ordered Barber to get off the plane.
Although Barber stated that American Airlines officials treated him graciously and even assisted him immediately in getting another flight, the fact that he was thrown off of a plane for no reason deeply troubled him.
Barber’s opponents in the North Carolina Republican party were not as sympathetic to him.
“I guess Rev. Barber thinks it’s ‘moral’ to inconvenience other passengers wanting to get home to see their families, because he once again thinks his ‘right’ to say and do whatever he wants is more important than other law-abiding citizens who conduct themselves under society’s rules of civil behavior,” said Michele Nix, vice chair of the party.
Barber is one of several passengers discriminated against by American Airlines. Previously it ejected a black woman, Imani Cezanne, from its plane for apparently “looking too black.”