“Not Racially Motivated"
Nearly four years ago, in April 2017, I was working in a newsroom when we heard about David Dao, the Vietnamese doctor who was forcibly removed from a commercial flight. Immediately, our Slack channel flooded with discussion on how to cover. As the only editor of Asian descent and therefore de facto Asian “authority,” my participation in the conversation was non-negotiable. I wouldn't have to write the story per se—we could commission someone else to, if I preferred, though I evidently didn’t because I ended up writing the thing anyway.
But I digress. My colleagues were good and well-meaning people; it soon become clear that the four of us—two editors of color and two white editors—agreed that race had probably played a factor, certainly in the humiliating way the sixty-nine-year-old was literally dragged off, unconscious and bleeding from the face, an excruciating ordeal that caused other passengers to deplane in protest and which the doctor would later describe as “worse than the fall of Saigon.”
When I mentioned our thoughts to the editor above me—for whatever reason he hadn’t been a part of the initial conversation—he immediately dismissed the notion.
“Not sure I see race playing a role,” said the editor, who was white.
When I told him the three other editors saw otherwise, he backtracked.
“Oh, OK, that’s fine then,” he said hurriedly. “H and E would know,” this editor continued, referencing my white coworkers—but not me or my Black coworker—in an almost comically transparent way.
“Ah,” he said, still backtracking. “I shouldn’t have weighed in, I actually hadn't seen the video. This isn’t my expertise.”
Yet it was only right then, after learning two white editors disagreed with him, that he could begin to think he was wrong.