You all know about the controversy that United Airlines has been facing this week after security guards assaulted and dragged a doctor off the plane when the computer randomly selected him to give up his seat and he refused. While United Airlines completely deserves the backlash they’ve faced for such a cruel act, I could not help but be struck by one thing in the videos that everyone else seemed to gloss over:
No one, not one person, stood up for this man or offered to take his place.
Everyone stayed seated; videotaping or yelling, for the most part, but a number of people did nothing, choosing instead to stare blankly ahead and not acknowledge what was happening.
Don’t get me wrong, the airline is the perpetrator here and I am not saying that the other passengers were to blame for what happened to this man. What I am saying, however, is that we have become a people so blind to injustice, so used to maltreatment, and so afraid to stand out that we are not advocating for the basic human rights of people around us.
I’d like to say that I would have stood up on that plane and offered to take his place; to spend the night in a strange city and postpone my opportunity to go home. I probably would have. I, like a handful of people on that plane, most likely, am in no rush to get somewhere. Unlike this passenger, I don’t have patients that rely on me for their lives and need me get home to them. I don’t have kids that are waiting for me to come home from a business trip. The worst consequences I would face for being a day late getting home is maybe missing a class or making my mom worry. Why did nobody on that plane step up and confront the injustice they were witnessing?
We’ve become so obsessed with recording something and publishing it and making it go viral that we don’t do anything to correct the situation as it’s taking place. We create this sort of outrage behind the safety of our computer screens and iPhones but when injustice is actually staring us in the face, we don’t have the courage or the spark or the motivation to confront it. It makes us uncomfortable; we want it to go away. We pray for a solution or we look away and hope someone else takes command or we vote for someone who we think will offer a quick, easy fix but so rarely do we personally step outside of our personal comfort zones to speak up for what’s right and to speak out against the prejudices that people are facing.
It’s easier to ignore it, there’s no doubt about that. But every time we watch something like this happen or every time a life-altering news piece affects us just as much as any other notification on our phones, I feel like we lose a level of our humanity; that we move one step closer to monotony and one step farther from basic human decency. How much is it to ask that we all stand up for one another, speak up for one another, and sacrifice our own comforts for someone else’s basic human rights? Why was there nobody on that plane willing to speak up for that man? Why do we feel like ‘liking’ a Facebook post or commenting with an emoji or sharing with the word ‘outraged’ is enough? Spoiler alert, it’s not.