Musician David Ryan Harris flew American from Atlanta to Los Angeles on last Friday, September 15th, and he was met on arrival by four police officers and an airline employee.
- Taken by surprise, it turns out that a flight attendant on board thought that his mixed race children couldn’t be his, because they didn’t engage her when she interacted with them.
- The officers questioned his kids. He was angry and it was tough not to “lose [his] mind.” The officers and the American Airlines employee went on their way, having satisfied themselves that he wasn’t trafficking his children, but with no apology from the airline.
Harris’s son felt like he done something wrong, endangering the family. So he wanted an apology, to show his son that the airline was wrong. He called customer service, and was told he had to fill out a form online to complain instead. He did that, but American did not respond. He received a likelihood to recommend survey. He gave a 0. He didn’t hear back from that either.
American had been the dad’s “airline of choice since 2004” and he is just about to hit million miler status. He wonders if race factored into the flight attendant falsely accusing him of trafficking his kids, or in how he feels he’s been blown off by the airline, “if this had been a white dad/mom with 2 little black kids, they would probably been offered an upgrade, not an interrogation.”
Airline and hotel employees are taught to use their prejudices to spot and report human trafficking, and this often works out badly. Flight attendants are told they need to be on the lookout, and you have to sympathize with the position that puts them in. Imagine if they didn’t say something when they could have stopped a bad situation? “Better safe than sorry” gives you situations like,
- An African American social service worker was traveling with a white baby and accused of kidnapping by an American Airlines flight attendant as a result.
- Armed Port Authority police boarded an American Airlines plane at New York JFK because a flight attendant saw an Asian American woman follow her hispanic husband to the lavatory (he was feeling unwell) and saw that they shared an orange juice. The flight attendant called for a sex trafficking investigation. It found their drivers licenses displayed the same home address because they were married, just different races.
- Cindy McCain once fabricated a story about catching a toddler being trafficked at the Phoenix airport.
Here’s David Ray Harris on a flight with two of his kids:
See something, say something, when you’re encouraging amateurs to do it, leads to so many false positives that real cases of sex trafficking seem likely to get less attention. Employees think they are ‘trained’ when they’re really using their prejudices.
The L.A.-based guitarist and singer-songwriter, who has toured with Pearl Jam and performed with John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and Collective Soul, has five sons – and a daughter who now performs as rapper Baby Tate.