Two grandparents traveling with their 11 month old grandson were met by police on arrival in Detroit on Sunday after a flight attendant reported them for human trafficking.
They had flown in from Punta Cana, where the grandmother had spoken at a conference. Dee Dee Ohara Blizard is Black, and her husband is Japanese. And the child’s skin color looks different than theirs. That appears to have raised alarms with Delta cabin crew.
They had taken their outbound trip without issue, and had no problems on the first segment of their return. However on the flight from Atlanta into Detroit a flight attendant questioned her.
- She was seated in first class
- Her husband flew coach
- And they took turns holding the child
Blizard, who travels frequently, likes to travel in first class but said that her husband is fine with traveling coach and they were taking turns holding their grandson.
The flight attendant denied anything was amiss in the questioning, suggesting that she was “just asking because we didn’t have all the information that we needed for one of the children on board.”
When the plane landed in Detroit they stopped to change the boy’s diaper in the lavatory. Then when they got off the aircraft they were approached by a Delta supervisor and by police, who spoke to the flight attendant that reported them by phone.
“The officer said, ‘I need you to come with me.’ And immediately, I froze,” Blizard told 7 Action News Thursday.
…”They are telling the police officers that I was suspected of child trafficking,” said Blizard, adding that the Delta supervisor lacked compassion for their ordeal and kept repeating, “I’m just doing my job. I’m just doing my job.”
She had the child’s passport, boarding pass, and documents showing their relationship – but were held for two frightening hours worried they were going to have the child taken from them.
Delta Air Lines, for their part, defends the flight attendant, saying they are taking “what this customer says seriously” (emphasis mine) but,
While we are looking into what may have transpired, we train our crew members to remain alert and use their professional experience and best judgement to ensure the safety of all our customers.
Presumably the grandparents failed to spend $75,000 on their co-brand credit card to earn immunity from trafficking allegations when they travel. Delta flight attendants have previously falsely accused a frequent flyer of trafficking his special needs daughter.
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? That would haunt them. So better to raise the accusation or flag innocent people for law enforcement to sort out. And that 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.
- Southwest Airlines demanded to see Facebook posts when a white mother checked in with her mixed-race son, claiming this was ‘federal law’.
— Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) May 26, 2018
Hotel staff, too, are trained by the Department of Homeland Security to report guests with too many used condoms in the trash, as well as:
- frequent use of the “Do Not Disturb” sign (you’re tired and don’t want to be bothered)
- guests who avert their eyes or don’t make eye contact (you’re tired and don’t want to be bothered)
- people with “lower quality clothing than companions” (no one ever accused me of fashion)
- people who have “suspicious tattoos” (which just means you’re from Austin or Portland)
- having multiple computers, cell phones, and other technology (you’re a blogger)
- “presence of photography equipment” (you’re a blogger)
- refusal of cleaning services for multiple days (you ‘made a green choice’ or ‘fear Covid’)
- rooms paid for with cash or a rechargeable credit card (you have to unload your gift card purchases somehow)
- guests with few personal possessions (you refuse to check a bag because you’re a frequent traveler)
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 – in this case against against a mixed race family which appears to have raised alarms with a Delta crewmember.