When the U.S. drops the "mother of all bombs" on Afghanistan as a worldwide message, it's time for a little sobering perspective.
Maybe we could take a little more time to treat all people with a little more respect, fairness and dignity in our everyday lives. Person to person. And certainly, corporation to consumer.
Which brings us to the viral bombshell of a story that won't die.
If United, or anyone else, thought the dragging of Dr. David Dao was a short-term headline that would go away with a simple apology, they were sorely mistaken.
Dao's tale is bigger than anyone thought. It's soon to become the last stand for the modern global consumer.
Dao, the 69-year-old man dragged off a United flight so that the airline could seat its own employees, has hired Thomas Demetrio, a top-notch personal injury lawyer based in Chicago. At a press conference Thursday, Demetrio made it clear how he saw things.
Demetrio didn't think the case was about race, even though Dao in one of the now numerous cell phone videos could be heard asking if United was asking him to leave the plane because he was Chinese. (At the press conference, Dao's daughter, Crystal, clarified that Dao immigrated from Vietnam.)
To further his point, Demetrio shared with the media an e-mail he'd received from someone suggesting that Dao was the "modern day Asian Rosa Parks."
"I don't think that's the case at all," Demetrio said. "What happened to Dr. Dao could have happened to any one of us."
Demetrio said Dr. Dao "has come to understand that he's the guy to stand up for passengers going forward."
In other words, he's the universal little guy.
But race did come into play in one significant way when Dao told Demetrio how he felt about the dragging. On one of the phone videos released, Dr. Dao was seen crying out, "just kill me, just kill me." A reporter asked what Dao meant by that?
"I asked him that question; here's what he told me," said Demetrio. "He said that he left Vietnam in 1975 when Saigon fell. And he was on a boat. And he said he was terrified. He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam."
If there's a lawsuit coming, and indeed there is, I don't think United stands a chance.
As a writer on race issues in America, I've often wondered what one factor in our society could become our common ground and end the pain of discrimination. Twenty years ago, I thought age would allow us to see beyond race. The ageists of the world have proved me wrong. In Dao, a 69-year old loving father with multiple grandchildren, I think we have the answer.
He's the battered consumer in this angry, short-tempered society, standing up to the corporation.
Race? Not primary. It may have helped the Chicago Airport cops to see him as an "other" so they could drag him away with zeal. But basically, race is irrelevant.
Dao was a seated ticket holder, a profit center to the corporation. And when it didn't need him anymore, it violently bullied Dao and treated him like crap.
We can all relate to that. It's what I thought on Monday when I first heard the story.
Now Dao is poised to become the one who fights for what all consumers deserve.
Demetrio said there were three things every consumer should demand: fairness, respect, and dignity. "That's it," Demetrio said. "I hope [Dao] becomes the poster child for all of us."
It's not the position that most Asian Americans willingly seek out. Most hold on to the stereotype--unless you are chosen, and it's beaten out of you.
And then there's no other option but to speak up. You take a stand, and become what I've long called since my Asian Week days: a "Public Asian."
Dr. Dao wasn't at the press conference.
Demetrio said he was at a secure location and appreciated if the media would leave him alone. Ultimately, Dao will return to Louisville, but probably by car. Said Demetrio: "He has no interest in ever seeing an airplane."
Hear bits of the media conference in Ep.9 of the ALDEF podcast, Emil Amok's Takeout.
I also interview an Asian American from Kentucky, Mimi Hwang. She talks about the local reaction to Dao, who lives in the Louisville area, and gives her own perspective as a business owner and as someone who has experienced what it feels like to be bullied due to her Asian background. It happened to her family in 2015. She also says that while the Dao story is empowering, the micro-community of Asians has little voice and no support from social justice organizations.
I even mention if the community has heard from Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation, who happens to be the wife of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell.
No, Hwang said. But she'd welcome Chao's support in the community.
1:54 The Shriek
5:08 “I am not going…”
5:34 Thomas Demetrio, Dao’s lawyer
5:53 Rosa Parks?
6:13 Opening of Press conference
11:58 Dao’s the guy
12:25 On United CEO’s Apology
14:20 Crystal Pepper, Dao’s daughter
15:46 On seeing Dad dragged on video
16:00 Dao’s injuries
17:41 “Just kill me.”
19:06 The first 20 minutes of the whole conference (including a repeat of the first 6 minutes).
39:00 End of conference
41:48 Mimi Hwang at her martial arts studio, talk about the Louisville community where
Dr. Dao is from and about her own experiences with racism.
1:06:51 Emil’s conclusion.
Contact Emil at http://www.aaldef.org/blog, the site of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
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Emil Guillermo wrote for almost 15 years his "Amok" column for AsianWeek, which was the largest English language Asian American newsweekly in the nation. "Amok" was considered the most widely-read column on Asian American issues in the U.S.
His thoughtful and provocative social commentaries have appeared in print in the San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate.com, San Francisco Examiner, USA Today, Honolulu Star Bulletin, Honolulu Advertiser, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and in syndication throughout the country. His columns are seen in Asia and around the world, on Inquirer.net.
His early columns are compiled in a book "Amok: Essays from an Asian American Perspective," which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 2000.
Guillermo's journalistic career began in television and radio broadcasting. At National Public Radio, he was the first Asian American male to anchor a regularly scheduled national news broadcast when he hosted "All Things Considered" from 1989-1991. During his watch, major news broke, including the violence in Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of dictatorships in Romania and Panama. From Washington, Guillermo hosted the shows that broke the news.
As a television journalist, his award-winning reports and commentaries have appeared on NBC, CNN, and PBS. He was a reporter in San Francisco, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.
After NPR, Guillermo became a press secretary and speechwriter for then Congressman Norman Mineta, the former cabinet member in the Bush and Clinton Administrations.
After his Hill experience, Guillermo returned to the media, hosting his own talk show in Washington, D.C. on WRC Radio. He returned to California where he hosted talk shows in San Francisco at KSFO/KGO, and in Sacramento at KSTE/KFBK.
Guillermo's columns in the ethnic press inspired a roundtable discussion program that he created, hosted, executive produced, resulting in more than 100 original half-hour programs. "NCM-TV: New California Media" was seen on PBS stations in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles, and throughout the state on cable.
Guillermo also spent time as a newspaper reporter covering the poor and the minority communities of California's Central Valley. His writing and reporting on California's sterilization program on the poor and minorities won him statewide and national journalism awards.
In 2015, Guillermo received the prestigious Dr. Suzanne Ahn Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice from the Asian American Journalists Association. The award, named after the late Korean American physician from Texas, recognizes excellence in the coverage of civil rights and social justice issues in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Guillermo, a native San Franciscan, went to Lowell High School, and graduated from Harvard College, where he was an Ivy Orator and class humorist.
Thanks for listening to Emil Amok's Takeout!