David Dao: United we stand

Photo Courtesy Of abc13.com | Allison C.T. Wu ’17 of Smith’s Pan-Asians in Action organization shares her thoughts on the recent assault of David Dao on United Airlines.

Allison C.T. Wu ’17
Contributing Writer

YouTube released a video of David Dao’s beating and forcible removal from United Airlines flight 3411. This is what I saw. This is what I heard.

I see a black cop. He demonstrates his power upon Dao’s aged body. Did the cop’s brown, relentless grip on this more fragile man make him feel proud to call himself a police officer? Did he hear the catchy rhyme “ching-chong Chinamen” when he listened to Dao’s accented, desperate pleas to stop harassing him because he was Asian? I see Oscar Munoz – the CEO of United Airlines and proud Mexican-American, first to graduate from college in his family – explain how this was all a “system failure,” an economic issue. Did the black cop and Munoz feel more American after their actions?

In a press conference during the aftermath of the incident, I shudder while seeing Dao’s daughter spew out poisonous, contagious internalized racism into the eager ears of the media: she emphasizes her father’s career as a doctor and her mother’s career as a doctor, and her siblings’ thriving higher education paths as though that’s supposed to prove they belong, to prove that they will go back to serving as proud, successful American citizens. She unconsciously defends the myth of the model minority with honorable loyalty, instead of defending her father.

In the same press conference, I watch an old white man fumble out words, acting as the lawyer for the Dao family, acting as their mouthpiece, acting as a white face serving their yellow faces. I watch him answer questions from the press with a smirk on his face, as though all of this fuss amuses him. I hear his words taint his “client’s” incident as the problem with airlines overbooking, “the overbooking of the overbooking,” he calls it. His smirk in between speaking reminds me of a smirk worn by a white passenger on the United flight. Did his smile shine when he watched Dao, bloodied and dragged down the floor of the cramped airplane aisle, like free entertainment on the small TV screens in front of each United seat? I see Dao’s body reflected in the eyes of the white passenger. I hear his soft chuckles.

Today I watch a video of a white woman sobbing with her baby after being hit in the head with a stroller by a crew member on an American Airlines flight.  I watch a white male passenger stand up in protest, actively coming to her defense. I compare this to the unified passengers aboard Dao’s flight sit in comfortable complacency while his screams echo in the aisle he is dragged down.

In the wake of massive, historical liberal outcry against Donald Trump’s presidency, I see people of color, women, LGBTQ, disabled folk, and immigrants all shouting, all uniting with tidal waves of resistance against values they see their president embodying. I see them flaunt their badges of diversity like the glimmering police badge glued on the black cop’s uniform. I hear “social justice.”

In the wake of an elderly Asian man dragged off an airplane like a piece of misplaced luggage, I see no flames of protest.  I hear no cries of liberal outrage.

Instead, I hear the whispers of how horrible, how wrong, how awful this incident was quickly swept away, lost in the winds of inaction. Instead, I hear the muffled, mournful moans from the hundreds of Chinese men buried beneath the tracks of the Transcontinental Railroad. They cry, they hurt, they bleed with their brother. I shiver in silence.

I see nothing. I hear nothing.

Who was David Dao again?



  1. Man with the Axe says:

    No one involved in this sorry episode is blameless, least of all David Dao. This is not how responsible adults behave when confronted by armed authority. I don’t know any adult male who would scream like a banshee and allow himself to be dragged down the aisle of the plane when he could have gotten up and walked out with dignity, protesting loudly all the way. His behavior was not normal or acceptable, even if he was in the right, which in some sense he was, but in some sense he was not.

  2. Anne at Riding says:

    I consider myself French royalty and think that my Econ. prof. disrespects me when she refers to me as other than Your Imperial Majesty.

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