New NAACP president: Action against American Airlines my No. 1 priority

NAACP President Derrick Johnson (Screenshot from C-SPAN)

The new leader of the 108-year-old National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was on CSPAN’s “News Makers Program Sunday,” laying out his program for the nation’s top civil rights organization.

At the top of his list of activist projects is the Oct. 24 National Travel Advisory he issued against American Airlines, said Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of NAACP.

The advisory cited four incidents involving black passengers and American Airlines:

  1. An African-American man was required to relinquish his purchased seats aboard a flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh-Durham, merely because he responded to disrespectful and discriminatory comments directed toward him by two unruly white passengers;
  2. Despite having previously booked first-class tickets for herself and a traveling companion, an African-American woman’s seating assignment was switched to the coach section at the ticket counter, while her white companion remained assigned to a first-class seat;
  3. On a flight bound for New York from Miami, the pilot directed that an African-American woman be removed from the flight when she complained to the gate agent about having her seating assignment changed without her consent; and
  4. An African-American woman and her infant child were removed from a flight from Atlanta to New York City when the woman, incidentally a Harvard Law School student, asked that her stroller be retrieved from checked baggage before she would disembark.

The chairman and CEO of American Airlines W. Douglas Parker wrote to his employees in response to the advisory: “We were disappointed to learn of a travel advisory issued by the NAACP regarding American Airlines. The mission statement of the NAACP states that it ‘seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination.’ That’s a mission that the people of American Airlines endorse and facilitate every day – we do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

Parker also told his workers: “We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns.”

American Airlines flight attendant serving beverages. (American Airlines photo)

Johnson said the NAACP is also supporting the lawsuit by William J. Barber, filed in December, after the former president of the North Carolina NAACP was removed from an American Airlines flight.

American Airlines officials referred to Barber’s removal from 2016 American Eagle flight, as a case of “disruptive passenger. “The flight had to return to the gate and was 40 minutes late due to the disruption.

Barber, who is known for his leadership and organizing against North Carolina Republicans, said he was removed from the flight because he is black. “To be born two days after the March on Washington and still have to deal with this kind of racism and discrimination, it’s troubling.”

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said in a 2016 statement that the airline would not discuss Barber’s account because it involves a lawsuit. But he said the airline does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and we are committed to providing a positive travel experience for all of our customers.

Johnson said he will marshal the economic power of black Americans to effect justice.

“Our goal is to equip our members with information necessary, so they can exercise what we call Dollar Discipline,” he said.

“If you look at the current political landscape after last year’s election, we have seen a heightened lack of sensitivities toward race and diversity for the African-American community that has brought a lot of concern to us as an organization,” he said.

Associated Press reporter Jess Holland asked Johnson: “Dollar Discipline sounds like another way to say boycott?”

Johnson said it is not a boycott.  “We should practice with our resources a way in which we can enforce a value system that respects our existence.”


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