Flying While Black and Reading Antique Aviation Books lands folk musician in Security Theater Hell

Via the ACLU and the Boston Globe, a first-hand account of how "security theater" makes us no safer, and a lot less free.

Massachussetts-based folk musician Vance Gilbert (Twitter), a law-abiding citizen who is black, 6 feet tall, and loves poodles, was harassed and humiliated on a flight out of Boston—apparently in part because he was reading book about old-time airplanes.

The TSA scanners and screeners had no problem with him. His problems began after he boarded his United Airlines flight, and appear to have been the work of the flight crew.

Here is his account, shared with the ACLU. He titled it "Racial Profiling First Hand," and signs the essay, "Flying While Black & Reading Antique Aviation Books." Snip:

Policeman: "Did you have a problem with your bag earlier?"

Me: "No sir, not at all. The flight attendant wanted it secured elsewhere other than behind my feet, and I opted to put it under the seat in front of me. It's my wallet, even though there's only 30 bucks in it…And all that was done without belligerence, or words for that matter…it was all good. A few beats...

Policeman: "Sir, were you looking at a book of airplanes?"

Me: "Yes sir I was. I am a musician for money, but for fun I study old aircraft and build models of them, and the book I was reading was of Polish Aircraft from 1946."

Policeman: "Would you please go get that book so that i can see it?"

I go back onto the plane - all eyes are on me like I was a common criminal. Total humiliation part 2. After a couple of minutes he says, "Why, this is all Snoopy Red Baron stuff..."

Me: "Yes sir, actually the triplane you see is Italian, from 1921 a little after World War 1..."

"Racial Profiling First Hand" (, via @lizditz)

Vance Gilbert's music is pretty great. You can buy it and support the guy here.

The ACLU is pretty great, too, and you can support them here.

Related: this Boston Globe item, "Musician ‘humiliated’ on flight." James Fallows wrote about Gilbert's ordeal in The Atlantic.


    1. Problem is that the ones we need to worry about will not be reading a book about airplanes IN PLAIN SIGHT of everyone nor have a tatto on their forehead which says, “terrorist”.  Jebus people.

  1. LOL.  Thanks for the amazon link, as buying on of his CD’s for my dad bd was absolutely the only way I was going to be able to exact some kind of retributive satisfaction.

    My question was, who was the absolute LUNATIC that started the hysteria?  Its my understanding that Bloomberg has a private jet.

    Do you think it was the flight attendant?  And do false allegations resulting in “turning back to the gate-s” go on their permanent record? 

    1. it’s a shame that there isn’t a rule that if you falsely accuse someone of wrongdoing, in any form, that there should be a punishment on the accuser. i know there’s stuff about calling in fake stuff to the cops, but i don’t think it covers things like this

  2. Hmmm… I was watching this great talk on a plane once – analyzing the causes of plane crashes.

    27c3: “Spoilers, Reverse Green, DECEL!” or “What’s it doing now?”
    Thoughts on the Automation and its Human interfaces on Airplanes

  3. Just another lazy-ass terrorist, thinking he can get by without planning ahead of time by doing all his cramming on airplanes at the last minute. He didn’t even get an up-to-date study guide!

    1. I see the problem here: black people reading, obviously.

      “You know what the most dangerous thing in America is, right? N***** with a library card.” –Brother Mouzone, The Wire

  4. Like many of the commentors on the source web site, I don’t see evidence of racial profiling.  Silly profiling for reading a book about planes, yes. 

    1. Like many of the commentors on the source web site, I don’t see evidence of racial profiling.  Silly profiling for reading a book about planes, yes.

      If he had not been a 6 foot tall black man would any of this had happened?

      1. Considering the TSA likes to pat down 6 yr old girls and blue haired ladies I’m guessing that yeah it would happen if the person wasn’t Black.   His race isn’t the problem it’s the hysteria that the US Govt. is propagandizing to everyone and anyone especially in public venues.  He was profiled because he was reading a book about planes on a plane under the nose of lackeys for the security apparatus in this country.   If a White male was reading a book about about skydiving on a plane that might raise some eyebrows too.  Remember all the photographers who got harrassed for taking pics of public monuments…..they were profiled too but for their actions not their race.

        1. “Considering the TSA likes to pat down 6 yr old girls and blue haired ladies I’m guessing that yeah it would happen if the person wasn’t Black”

          Actually I’m thinking this is more the reason for the way it was handled because he is a black man. It’s easy to intimidate little girls and elderly women, and they’re probably not that much of a threat. This stewardess couldn’t even ask him about the book and needed the whole plane turned around? And you want us to believe that prejudice against a large black man as a type of person has *nothing* to do with that? 

        2. Have you actually gone through security checkpoints anywhere? I live in NYC. There’s stuff at the airpots and “pop up” NYPD bag checks in the subway system. Yes, the occasional “Oh my! They picked an old lady and/or little kid!” scenario happens, but there are many more brown & black people stopped than anything else. I have an Indian friend who grew up in Hong Kong; he’s “whiter” than me since it’s very much a proper Brit! Every time he has visited me and there was an MTA/NYPD bag checkpoint he has been stopped. EVERY TIME! He got sick of it so what does he do? If he sees a checkpoint he simply walks out of the station, finds another entrance without a checkpoint and uses that one.

          There is a lot of security theater out there, but if you are brown or black you will be a “featured player” in the faux checkpoint drama more than others.  Guaranteed.

          1. I spent some time at O´hare waiting for my brother to get through the checkpoint so we could board. Fifteen people passed through my lane while I was waiting, five were taken aside for extra screenings, all of them non-white. A family with a toddler was among them and the agents even xrayed the storebought prepackaged baby food containers one by one after patting down both adults and checking the baby carefully. Made my stomach turn a little. 

            My brother had a piece of paper left in his pocket when he went through the scanner and of course got the third degree about that until the supervisor saw that it was a very non-threatening receipt. Insane. 

          2. “If he sees a checkpoint he simply walks out of the station, finds another entrance without a checkpoint and uses that one.”

            And the terrorists can do the saaaaame thing…

        3. U.S. government?  There seem to be some very popular media conglomerates that are devoted to spreading hatred of all humans of ‘brown’ persuasion, whether they be potential terrorists or ‘illegals’ coming to steal your prosperity.  In fact the most popular figures in U.S. media have made fortunes off this.  

        4. yes they were profiled for their actions, but you didn’t really hear about that in the news to much, because they weren’t able to spin it and make it about race.  I have yet to figure out why the mans love for poodles was at all relevent to the story, but they had to throw that in, too.  It’s not so much about a flight crew doing their job-and checking out something that could be suspicious is part of their job-and you don’t know the peramiters that they are allowed to check things out themselves before they have to call security in-so why don’t we find that out first before we lable everyone on the flight crew a rasist.  But it is more about trying to say it was because he was a black man, and that is why the world turns, so that white people can put others races down, apparently they live for that.  SMH!

      2. ‘If he had not been a 6 foot tall black man would any of this had happened?’

        Quite likely? Our aviation security and personnel seem to be equal opportunity dumbasses.

        This might have been about race, but he does not provide a single corroborating item to suggest it was race other than ‘I am black’, whereas there is an extremely clear cut ignorant paranoia motivation for this behavior: he was reading an airline technical manual on an airplane.

        1. So this is more of a case of “flying while being an aviation nerd” rather than “flying while black”? Maybe reading anything other than a mass-market paperback is some kind of profile trigger.

          1. Profiling anyone who’s subversive enough to read on an airplane instead of watching the tiny TV on the back of the seat. Freaks!

      3. “If he had not been a 6 foot tall black man would any of this had happened”

        We don’t know, but it is nothing more than an assumption, isn’t it? Worth testing, but assuming his being black had anything to do with it seems premature.

    2. I am a six foot tall white man.  I can assure you that if I was sitting on a plane reading a book on 1920’s aircraft no one would have done a thing.  Profiling is when you look at a person and judge them based on a preset criteria.  Here, many american think that all muslims are just waiting to go jihad on us…and everyone knows that all black folks with beards and arabs are muslim….that is racial profiling.  They were passing judgement even before they saw the book, but once a book on airplanes came out…shit hit the fan.  

    3. You think if was a white old coot reading about old airplanes anyone would have thought twice about it?

  5. It’s quite sad when our government agencies are accosting people based on flawed profiling methods. This security theater isn’t making flying any safer. It’s merely a gang of US sanctioned bullies harassing the very people they’re tasked with protecting. Sick, sad and wrong.

    1. Am I the only one who has never had any issues with TSA? Compared to everyone else in the airport experience (ticket agents in particuoar), they are always pretty nice.

      1. TSA are generally polite and just want to get through the day too. But it’s like keeping a pet tiger. You never know when they’re just going to snap, and all the power is on their side.

        The ones at LAX international terminal are also particularly rude, probably because it’s such a dehumanizing cattle car experience.

  6. We must not allow the security state, nor those who supply it, to “win.” The TSA needs to go down in history as one of the USA’s most egregious boondoggles. People who foil plots don’t report to work at the airport.

    1. If you’d read the post, you’d have noticed that the TSA had no problems with this passenger.

      *edit* ok I see that in the *linked* article that some TSA came aboard with the police.

      My guess is that a busybody passenger probably began this, if there were no troubles up to the point of almost taking off.

    2. Frankly the terrorists do a pretty good job of foiling themselves by being more than a little dumb. Take the ‘binary explosives’ plot from a while ago, yeah it could of worked if they of had a pharma grade lab & equipment, a bucket of ice & somehow managed to get an 8 hour flight to last a minimum of 16 hours. The idiots who tried to burn down airports left the safety valves on the propane cylinders; they vent the gas if the internal pressure is too high… much wafted to have a jet of flame coming from the top of it than the thing exploding.

      Whilst the few successful attacks have made headlines and caused loss of life it’s worth remembering that people got out of the WTC buildings and the London bus bombs did very little damage; it’s not like a backpack full of RDX was used. It’s not like someone nuked downtown New York or London.

      So yeah, they do a pretty good job of screwing up if left to their own devices.

  7. As someone (who has been decribed as Teflon in appearance- and quite unremarkably caucasian) who routinely brings sectionals and aviation manuals on board (to study up, as a pilot) without any questions whatsoever, I am doubly appalled by this. What the F.

    Anyhow Xeni- you’re right;  listening to Icarus by Night (from his Shaking off Gravity CD); really good stuff.

  8. @ Diziet Sma – I have my doubts that a white person dressed the same and of the same age would have been pulled off a plane for this. It would be easy to get some copies of that book and see.

    1. Or any book with an image of a plane. Just grab the safety fold out , open it to the jets floor plan, and insert it into a magazine. 

  9. I can’t express to you how much I LOVE Vance Gilbert. I bought his album, “Shaking off Gravity” back in 1999 and it got me through some VERY hard times. It is still, more than ten years later, one of my favorites. I saw him in concert once, and got to speak to him afterwards– he is a fantastic muscian, has a great sense of humor, and is just generally a nice guy.

    Of course, even if he was a total asshole, he deserves our support when dealing with the TSA… 

  10. I quit flying United just because of the security hassle they put me through going to Narita once.  Never, ever again.

  11. I don’t see clear evidence of racial profiling.

    I do think the first line of ‘security’ failed, becauxe the flight attendant lacked the courage to just talk to the passenger. “Hi, how are you today? What’s that you’re reading? Oh, a book about old planes, neat! Have a nice flight!” Problem avoided.

    1. The problem is that the attendant was afraid before he/she left for work that morning.

      Too many of us are.

      1. There is a difference between being afraid and doing nothing vs. being afraid and doing your job.  Oops, waitresses in the sky are not air marshals.

      2. Afraid of what though is the problem. The media has done an absolutely astounding job of convincing people that just around the corner some nutter with a bomb is going to take one for the team and kill people. Just like they’ve convinced a section of the population that any male is a pedophile and should be considered as such.

        The TSA and similar theatre does little to nothing to dispel the terrorist myth and reinforces it in a great many people’s minds, after all if the was little to no chance of a terrorist event on an airplane why do you have to go through the robo-grope machine? Exactly. Must be because terrorists are everywhere.

        It’s a shame that it just isn’t so. Statistically you are more likely to win the lottery (which I would argue is a good thing) that be injured, let alone killed, in a terrorist event. I wish more people would understand that, really I do.

        1. “The media has done an absolutely astounding job of convincing people that just around the corner some nutter with a bomb…”

          I would add US government too has done a fine job.

  12. I’m checking out Vance’s music on iTunes right now.

    But you do see where this is going, don’t you?

    In ten years, RIAA/TSA will be using airline humiliations as their leading promotional tool, citing the “social media internet cool factor” and musicians will be issued increasingly provocative books to carry onto planes…

  13. I’m with bklynchris: can we find out who made the complaint? It should be matter of public record. 

    If it was a member of the cabin crew, they’re grounded. Seriously, if we have people responsible for the safety of passengers who see this man as a threat, there’s a major training issue, either in the training they got at home or in the course of their job. Since the cabin crew and the pilot(s) were in agreement but since no one came and actually looked at the book or talked to the Mr Gilbert, they are all guilty. If it’s a passenger, their file needs to be tagged as a potential disruption. 

    This stuff makes my blood boil. 

  14. OMG! There’s more to the story! Stop being such a friend of the terrorists. He also had a whole book about 1930s Polish airplanes. He could have totally used that up to date information to seize control of the plane.

    It’s like this site wants the terrorists to win.

    Oh, wait. I think the already have won.

  15. Snoopy is clearly a subversive with Socialist leanings. “Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice.”

  16. Reading another report on this elsewhere in my travels, this was all caused by a stewardess who after wanting his bag elsewhere was unhappy he did not put it exactly where she wanted.  Then there was whispering and watching as she riled up the rest of the flight crew against this obvious terrorist.  The fact he had a book with a plane in it sealed the deal.  He was obviously going to use the book to tell him how to fly the plane after he took it over.

    We watched as an airline steward lost his mind and went down the emergency slide, we’ve seen stories of stewardess’s loose their mind over a simple request for some OJ from a peace activist.  Have we forgotten that power corrupts people, and that people qualified to ask Coffee or Tea might not be the best people to have the ultimate power to stop an airplane with no repercussions when their fears are unfounded.

    After years and years they finally reinforced the cockpit doors, the security theater beyond that is just to make people think the problem is solved and its safe again.  The problem was solved when they did the doors.  The bigger problem might be all of the stuff being loaded onto plane without being checked, the flight crews and service people who have full access to the plane and need to checking of what they have.

  17. But the Red Baron shot down 80 planes! You want this tyrant of the skies to continue his reign of terror over the freedom-loving people of France, 90 years ago?

    This is how forward thinking the TSA really is: they’re keeping tabs on time-traveling Red Baron, a threat that isn’t even on our radar. Yet.

    1. a threat that isn’t even on our radar

      Any decent alternate-universe novels that rehash WWI assuming availability of radar or other not-invented-yet-then “defense” technologies?

  18. I dunno about you guys, but I feel safer already! None of them damn black men trying any of that book learnin’ on my flight, and that’s the way I like it.

    (Note: HUGE sarcasm tags wrapped around that comment. Like, 5 feet high and blinking.)

  19. A lot of commenters are claiming that is an example of failed security and are railing on the TSA. I don’t think that’s the case. Gilbert made it through security without incident, after the plan was grounded the security agents immediately realized there was nothing to worry about and let him back on the plane.

    The problem was a frightened over-zealous flight attendant.

    The charges of racism bother me. I don’t see any evidence of such, and to assume that it was seems to be verging on racism itself. But, I’m open to the fact that it could have been, as low-level hidden racism is difficult to see—that’s what makes it so reprehensible and difficult to combat.

    I’d like to see more proof to go along with the allegations.

    1. There you go again, white folks (one of which you very likely are), demanding further proof of racism from someone non-white–from someone who has no doubt experienced at least 1000 times as many racist incidents as you have, and therefore knows very well just what racism feels, tastes, and smells like. 

      Here’s hoping that someday you’ll see the constant white doubting of non-white declarations of racism as itself a form of racism. And that you’ll see that non-white people already know very well that white people are likely to utter such doubts, or at least think them, and thus are LESS likely to openly declare something racist, rather than more. IOW, when a non-white person says something is racist, it’s very likely that it is racist. White people just can’t see it as easily.

      1. Yes. So true! This can also be applied to all other ‘-isms’. ‘Oh, well, I just don’t see it! It NEVER happens to me! You must be imagining things!’

      2. Yes.  Exactly.  I’m white, male, and over sixty.  I honestly don’t see any evidence of racism, except for Mr. Gilbert’s expert firsthand testimony.  Why should I see any evidence of racism?  I wasn’t there, and I have never, ever experienced any racism against me, exercised by a person in power over me.

        Mr. Gilbert seems to be a reasonable trustworthy person who is telling the truth.  Why should I not believe him?  Unless evidence that controverts Mr. Gilbert’s story emerges, I will believe his story and his allegations of racism.

        Doubters should honestly assess whether they would believe a white man who makes allegations of the same sort.

  20. Race absolutely played a part in this. It is one of a number of factors that were at work here. This “security” hysteria sickens me.

    as an aside, I am happy to see that I actually agree completely with Xeni for once.

  21. Read ‘The Anonymous Coward’ comment as this poster might be onto the real reason why this happened more than anything else.  The stewardess could have been intimated by his size, race, gender, demeanor who the F knows but one thing is for sure in that anyone who has flown in the last decade has seen flight attendants have a major power trip going on when dealing with customers err passengers.   Would you be so inclined to say it was predjudice if the flight attendant were Black and the victimized passenger White or another race.

    1. “flight attendants have a major power trip going on when dealing with customers err passengers”

      You have to talk to them like your were dealing with a cop who is on edge, “Ummm, sorry to bother you.  I know you are busy.  Could I have a Coke?  If you are busy that is ok, you are doing a great job.  Oh, sorry that my foot just brushed yours.  No need to turn the plane around…”

    2.  but one thing is for sure in that anyone who has flown in the last decade has seen flight attendants have a major power trip going on when dealing with customers err passengers.

      Funny, what I see every time I fly is a lot of boorish, self entitled, childish passengers who refuse to do the most basic of routine things before taking off, whether that’s babbling on their cell (about crucial stuff no doubt) after being asked nicely three times already to turn it off, or to stow their bags like they’re supposed to.  I see for the most part, very friendly people trying to do their jobs in spite of the usual number of dummies that seem to be on every flight I take.

  22. To clarify: Is there a history in the US of black women being used as a reason for violent hysteria that results in wrongful convictions and even out and out murder of white men? If no… then it’s really not the same, is it? 

  23. What’s sad for me is the picture of the (likely) white woman who was so terrified by her encounter with the black passenger who needed to keep his bag nearby, who then caught a glance of “Planes!” on a book and decided to phone it in. 

  24. Ask the Duke LaCrosse team or the Tawana Brawley 5.   The may not have been convicted but their lives were threatened and one of the police officers whose career was ruined eventually committed suicide.  Ask the Black Columbia professor who hung a noose on her door then screamed about racism and how in fear she was until they showed her a video of herself putting the noose there.  It doesn’t matter if it’s race or age we are all being profiled one way or another even if subconsciously.

        1. … um… so what?

          Look, go protect white men’s rights or something. I’m sure some where there’s a white man who is getting like sued or something. It’s totally like endemic racism. It really, really is.

    1. Ask the Duke LaCrosse team or the Tawana Brawley 5.   The may not have been convicted but their lives were threatened and one of the police officers whose career was ruined eventually committed suicide.  Ask the Black Columbia professor who hung a noose on her door then screamed about racism and how in fear she was until they showed her a video of herself putting the noose there.  It doesn’t matter if it’s race or age we are all being profiled one way or another even if subconsciously.

      How about you pull your head out of your arse and realize the handful of oddball cases really do not suddenly disprove all other valid cases of racism and racial profiling. And you yourself are showing racism because you demand a level of purity of victims so high to validate their claims that exists nowhere else. If they are not saints, they are sinners and who cares, right?

      But you know what, I too—a white man—have been profiled: 6 times out of 10 if I go to a discount store in a non-white neighborhood I get someone coming to me asking me questions as if I am the store manager. And when I stop them and say no? Sometimes they think I am security or a cop. Now, do they ever say “Sorry, I thought you were in a position of power here because you are white and this is a discount store so why else are you here…” Never. But that is what happens. Doesn’t happen to me in Chinatown or Little Odessa… Only in non-white neighborhoods. You know why? Because America still has some massive race issues to deal with. And it does go both ways. But as a white person in America the chances of me being negatively racially profiled because I am white are pretty much zilch.

      1. It is sad Americans in 2011 still have to have this fact pounded into them, but thanks for continuing to fight the good fight!

    2. you are talking yourself into something ridiculous and untrue. letting that whole white male age thing go once and for all will set you free.

  25. Reading this type of stuff and I’m more than glad I don’t have to travel by air for business anymore.  The saddest part, however, is that this could have easily been at a mall with mall security in place of the TSA & an out of their mind flight attendant.  Anyone else notice how crazy mall cops have become in the last few years?

    And yes, my vote is that race played a part. It wasn’t the only piece but it was a piece none the less.

  26. Besides… since when did creativity and originality matter where facts are concerned? I think that’s called fiction.

  27. If this really bugs you, take two minutes to go to United’s web site and send them a message to their customer service account. I just did, and referenced a link to the original article. A few thousand people do this in the next day and it might actually have some impact.

    1. I’d like to think so, but in the real world they’ll just assign some low level lackey to deal with all the “annoying” emails.

  28. Well, I have to say that was a load of bullshit he had to deal with for no reason.  I will certainly follow the link provided and purchase some of his music, you bet.  However, I won’t support the ACLU.  I am not a part of the LGBT community, nor am I a “minority”.  If my civil liberties are trampled all over, the ACLU couldn’t care less. I know this from first hand experience.

    1. Well, I have to say that was a load of bullshit he had to deal with for no reason.  I will certainly follow the link provided and purchase some of his music, you bet.  However, I won’t support the ACLU.  I am not a part of the LGBT community, nor am I a “minority”.  If my civil liberties are trampled all over, the ACLU couldn’t care less. I know this from first hand experience.

      The ACLU has defend fucking KKK members to protect their right to hold KKK rallies and spew hate speech.  Arguing that they have some secret agenda to ensure that the black lesbians take over the world, or whatever delusional paranoid fantasy you seem to be having about the ACLU, is beaten into pulp by reality.  If the ACLU spends more time on gays and minorities, it likely has something to do with the fact that those people tend to get brutalized by the law more often than others.  

      Hell, in most states people who are gay are not even allowed to freaking get married by law or (even more horrifying) constitution.  At least one podunk school in south each year terrorizes some adolescent because they tried to go to the prom with a date that had the wrong naughty bits combination.

      I can’t say I agree with every position the ACLU takes, but to argue that they play favorites is insane.  There are few organizations more fanatical in equal application of their principles.  It takes a certain level of zeal to be pushing through the courts a case defending affirmative action while at the same time defending some KKK asshole’s right to argue that everyone who isn’t white needs to be driven out and segregation reinstituted.

  29. Race was her leverage to exact her entitlement issues on all air travelers effected by her behavior.  I just opened a twitter acct (god help me, trying to figure out how to get back to crazytown from idyllic Oregon) so maybe I’ll go twitter on UAL asking if it is their policy to let their flight attendants unfounded hysteria could potentially delay my travel plans.

    Wouldn’t it be funny if the attendant’s name was Irene?

  30. For a moment, let’s forget about the question of racial profiling, and pretend that Gilbert is wearing an “I {heart] Al Qadia” tshirt and cackles manically whenever asks him a question. Let’s even go so far as to make the book about modern aircraft. In fact, let’s make it a manual for the aircraft in question, that he was on at the very moment. Let’s even pretend that there are no civil liberties at stake, and airlines are designated “no freedom” zones in the interest of safety.

    Why would you stop this man to begin with? So what if he intends you ill will and has a book on modern aeronautics? Do you think he was sick that day at the terrorist training camp, so has to cram before the suicide mission? Is there any knowledge he could glean from having an aeronautics book right there on the plane that would give him more information than the pilots and staff who make a living on the things have? Are you worried that he’s going to discover that the small exhaust port, just below the main port, is the secret vulnerability to modern air traffic? What is it supposed to do?

    I mean, if he’s reading “The Seven Ways to Kill a Man with A Plastic Fork,” okay, you should ask some pointed questions, but a book on planes? Seriously, it makes me paranoid that the terrorists have infiltrated the air staff, just to do stupid things that makes us assume they’re all idiots.

  31. Only white people can be trusted with books about vintage aircraft.  I saw a middle eastern guy reading a book on alchemy and I warned the flight attendant that he might try to turn the plane into gold during the flight.

  32. Nobody has pointed out that he’s got a BEARD!! The whole Beard Liberation Front thing is meant a bit of a joke but there’s a nugget of truth there…

  33. I’m not white. And not black. And have never been to America. Think of me as one of the impartial neutral observers. :)

    I’m with ialreadyexist here. Yes, there is no proof that there is no racism. There is also no proof that there is racism here. Maybe it is true that in circumstances like this, on balance, there is some racism. I don’t know. But in this particular case, not enough to say either way. So it’s best to not just assume racism.

  34. We saw Vance Gilbert when he was first starting out in Michigan and loved his show.  A few years later, we went to see him again at the Iron Horse in Northampton and were kind-of shocked by his appearance.  He’d changed a lot.

    We had remembered him as a handsome, clean-cut young man.  Maybe he was just having a bad night, but when we saw him in Northampton, he looked more like a homeless drug addict. His clothes looked dirty and rumpled. His hair looked unkempt. In other words, the picture you selected for this article may not be representative of his current appearance. A quick search with Google Images gives a somewhat broader sampling.

    Is it OK to hassle someone because they look like a homeless person?  Of course not.  But it doesn’t sound like he was hassled, does it? Someone who should be paying attention had concerns and took precautions.  It sounds like the police were entirely respectful and, although there was a delay, he flew on to his destination.

    Bruce Schneier has persuasively made the case that profiling is a bad idea, but trusting your intuition when something seems wrong — at least checking — is maybe a good idea.  I’m as opposed to “security theater” as anyone, but this doesn’t sound like theater to me.

    Yes, I’m a white guy.

    1. Yes, I’m a white guy.

      Well sure you are. And thus you’re much less likely to understand that when it comes to racism (as with other -isms; thanks doctressjulia), the intuition of white people, especially, has been socially instilled by a society/culture that’s still racist. Common white “intuitions” in terms of race are those bad things we call stereotypes. You know, “black man = dangerous,” that sort of thing. They’re seemingly intuitive reflexes that occur at a largely unconscious level, and white folks are likely to act badly on the basis of them when faced with non-white folks. Unless they’ve consciously learned and/or decided not to.

    2. “Someone who should be paying attention had concerns and took precautions.”
      Concerns about what?  A fucking book on old aircraft?  What a crock of shit.

    3. Jeez – you don’t get out much, do you? The google photos of Mr Gilbert with various hairstyles, clothing and bearded(less)ness didn’t look like homeless drug addicts to me. For one thing, the homeless drug addicts I’ve seen aren’t usually smiling and showing so much joy in life. It’s too bad that he didn’t choose to continue to look like a “clean cut young man” so as not to offend your aesthetic sense.

      I’ve seen all kinds of people, dressed in all kinds of ways, as passengers on planes. Recently, a guy dressed in bright blue women’s panties, black thigh high stockings and not much else was allowed to fly, even after passengers had complained:

      On the other hand, a young man wearing saggy pajama pants was arrested and removed from the plane (different plane, same airlines – US Airways).

      Can you guess what race each of these two men were?

    4. Dude, I’ve been listening to Vance for about 15 years now, I don’t recall him ever looking homeless.   He did sport some big hair for a long while.   The photo above is pretty representative of his current look though to be fair in the airplane shirt and fanny pack he might look better prepared to mow a lawn than play a concert.  Still, he appears like a home-owner who is ready to mow his lawn.  Anyway, thank goodness we can discuss his appearance to decide whether or not it was appropriate for the airline to take a plane off the runway because he was reading a book.  

    5. Right.

      “Vance Gilbert had a bad day on Friday, and as well as running over
      his peanut Anec III he badly damaged his Avia BH 25 and Letov trimotor.

      To cheer himself up (and entertain the rest of us) he flew some of the
      other aircraft from his fleet later in the day.”

      Typical bad day for a crack head. Presumably, he cleaned up a little to be able to do this.

      Search for “Vance Gilbert” here for sauce.

  35. Was the incident racist?  Very likely. I won’t concede it proven, because I’ve been given the business by airport security, for no apparent reason, and I am a 50-something, tall, heavyset, bespectacled white man. And I’ll surely forgive Mr Gilbert for seeing it as such – whether race was the motivation or not – since it’s just like the ten thousand actual racist incidents that he’s seen.

    But simply calling it “racism” misses part of the point. We dismiss the incident as non-racist because we want to forgive the idea that our society has come to suspect anybody, all the time. Your neighbour could be a closet terrorist. Your best friend. Your son.  And, my experience is that most of my countrymen blame the targets of these actions. I’ve had an otherwise reasonable family member tell me – in all earnestness – that he believed that we all have a civic duty to “keep our noses clean” and that “looking suspicious” in itself should be punishable. Why? Because it takes time that the authorities could otherwise spend on investigating the real evildoers, and as such is tantamount to turning in a false alarm.

    In the environment of pervasive suspicion and anonymous denunciation, hate flourishes. Some of it is racially motivated. Some of it is envy – I regularly encounter TSA officers, mall security guards, and others who seem to think that any affluent middle-aged man needs to be “taken down a peg.” Some of it is inexplicable psychopathy.  And some of it is banal habit – “as long as we’re supposed to hate everyone, then every man for himself!” That’s the real cancer; the racism is one bloody symptom.

  36. We’re now a nation of terrified pussies. The politicians recognized that harnessing the fear of 9/11 and using it towards their advantage would keep them in power. The net result is now we have dumb fuck sheep who are scared of dark skinned people reading about antique aircraft. Fucking disgusting.

    Dissolve the TSA, let the crazy fuckers blow up a plane every 5 or 10 years. It will serve only to marginalize their position in the world and won’t change the risk of flying even a hundredth of one percent.

    But no, instead we kowtow to the fear mongers, restrict citizen freedom and demonize brown skinned people of a different religion, which just serves to fuel the hatred on both sides. Even dead at the bottom of the ocean, Bin Laden’s plan is still corroding and weakening the U.S.

  37. @boingboing-2c4ab9b7954f1c0af3fab408b3290a86:disqus As an educator who’s at least well-read with respect to issues of racism, I like to think that I’m able to make informed statements about white privilege and stereotypes, in spite of my race. I have to admit that I thought for a long time before posting in this forum, given the atmosphere here. But I thought that, since I had personal experience with Vance Gilbert, I should probably share my experience — even though I’m a white person, and therefore (in your opinion) evidently unable to understand racism.

    1. Thanks for the reply, Steven. I don’t think white people are unable to understand racism–just less likely to understand it as well as non-white people do.

      What they’re more likely to do instead is say, basically, “Racism? Are you sure it wasn’t something else, like say, what you were wearing that day?” 

      That’s a kind of “derailment” that can get pretty infuriating. In fact, I’m trying to find it here, but I so far, I can’t decide which one it is:

      Surely you can imagine how it feels to be told repeatedly, by a white person no less, that what you’ve worked up the courage to step out and identify as racism is probably something else instead? Or not quite as bad: that yeah, racism may be a factor, but have you thought about this factor too?

      Btw, as an educator, you might find that site useful to share with students, if you haven’t seen it. I mean that in all sincerity, and if you do discuss white privilege with your students–that’s cool!

  38. Everything points to this being the work of a stupid, busybody attendant or passenger.  It’s interesting to see all the irrelevant attacks on the TSA, even though they obviously didn’t consider him a threat as he easily passed through security like anybody else.

  39. All of this could have been easily avoided if only he’d just brought a Kindle on the plane instead of a real book.

  40. I might suggest that the TSA has messed with the wrong poet. Vance Gilbert is a mentor to a generation of song-writers and performers. He is humble, gentle, keen of eye and sharp of wit. When the sting of betrayal and hurt subsides I predict Vance will turn this humiliation into songs that will move the culture closer to awakening. The best way to turn the situation is to listen to his music and learn from his wisdom. Vance, man, it’s grist for the mill. 

  41. Several months after 9/11 I was forced to remove my trousers in public in the Boston airport.  I had missed my flight for my brother’s wedding and ‘hopped’ my way from airport to airport during a very busy travel time.  When I arrived in Boston I remember a lady distinctly saying “we got one”.  They seemed almost bored when they told me to drop my pants in public.  Fortunately for me I am an exhibitionist and always wear very clean and colorful boxers.  But I can see how this would bother others.

  42. @boingboing-2c4ab9b7954f1c0af3fab408b3290a86:disqus Thanks for sharing the Derailing site — I hadn’t seen it before.  Good stuff.

  43. obviously he was planning on travelling back in time in order to fly a biplane into the empire state building.

  44. Gosh, it is so very tempting to create a book jacket titled “1001 Alternate Uses For An Airliner”. 

  45. The way things are going, by this time next year, there’ll be a shriveled old black lady in a church hat who gets thrown out the door of the plane onto the tarmac for watching Airplane!.

    Fact: All t’rr’sts love themselves some Leslie Nielsen.

  46. Hmmm… I too like to read about old airplanes, but my area of interest is Cold War era Soviet combat aircraft. Note to self: Leave the books at home and hope the TSA never takes a look at my bookshelves.

  47. I usually get a window seat so I can take pictures of the landscape below. I’ve also used the in-flight WiFi connection to do real-time tracking of the flight I’m on (just because I could). If I didn’t look like a pasty-skinned geek, either activity would have probably got me profiled for sure.

  48. “How entirely sad it must be to see everything in well.. black and white”

    How entirely sad it must be to be so completely self centered and devoid of empathy or compassion for other people!

  49. My friend and I were questioned by the pilot after asking the flight attendant to resolve an argument we were having about whether fuel was stored in a plane’s wings or not. He kept insisting it was impossible and that the wings would break off. He wanted to get kicked off, we were sitting over the wings anyway. 

  50. Today, the very few times I’m flying, I’m more worried about the maintenance records (or lack thereof) rather than the terrorist. They already won, you know.

  51. If you ask me, I think a certain airline needs to have yet more guitar videos made about how rotten it is.

  52. This entire incident has me upset on many different levels.  I  I’m frustrated at the paranoia that makes it seem reasonable to put up with such nonsense when we travel.  I’m concerned about the fact that many people seem to dismiss his assertion that his skin color played a part in the events.  I don’t necessarily expect everyone to accept what he states without thought.  I wish, however, that there were fewer people simply dismissing the *possibility* out of hand as if “these things” don’t happen any more.   Is there “proof” that skin color affected the choice made?  As the n-word is used more infrequently and cross-burning and hoods are out of favor (thank goodness), behaviors become more subtle.

    The unfortunate reality is that we still live in a society
    where people make decisions every, single day that ARE influenced by the color
    of a person’s skin. The white woman whlo recently asked how much she should tip
    the skycaps since “the black men seem to have been replaced by white
    college kids.” The middle class parent who had never made a
    racist/prejudiced statement to me before who states that she has chosen to move
    to a different school district “so the girls won’t decide to date black
    boys.” The co-worker who intimates that the black staff members don’t work
    as hard as others “because, well, you know, they are just lazy.” So
    while not one of us is privy to the thoughts of those involved, eliminating
    race as a factor is shutting one’s eyes to a truth in our society. The
    “race card” is a reality that people have to live with their entire
    lives. If you are a black person, things happen to you and around you because
    your skin color. Of course, every bad thing that happens to people with brown
    skin is not due to skin color.  However,
    it is an additional filter through which groups of people who have been
    discriminated against must view the world. I wish this weren’t true, but it is
    a truth we ignore at our peril.

    If it matters to anyone, I’m a white chick.

    @Steven Brewer–This article has photos of his current look:

    1. I have no doubt that as a black man in America he encounters racism all
      the time, subtle and other. But the problem with dragging race into
      this is that there is no need to. Would this be strange if it happened
      to a straight white man with no poodles? No, not at all. Was there any
      indication that this was racism? No, not at all.

      There is no reason to invoke race in this any more than there is to blame disguised alien
      lizards for cops beating a homeless man to death. But some of you seem to find the idea very appealing.

      Now you make it easy for people to trivialize it. Look at the comments here, on Fark, on Reddit, and anywhere else this has come up. They’re mostly ‘how the f@#4 is this racist?’ By making this a race issue, when the support for that is so flimsy, you make it easy to dismiss. Any white guy knows the same thing could happen to him, so if you claim this is racism instead of security theater, it’s trivial to say “So this is where ‘racism’ is now? I guess it doesn’t exist any more.”

  53. My mum was an airline stewardess back in the 60s, on PanAm’s 707s.  She’s told me a bunch of stories about partial decompression, sudden turbulence, and having to cook scrambled egg at 30,000ft.  Sometimes all at the same time.  She had a great time, and her only regret was that she never got to work on a 747 (she left in 1968).  But the last time she flew to the US, from Spain, in 2010, was a disaster – she hated it.  The surly staff, delays, arbitrary changes, cramped conditions, security theatre, awful food and non-free drinks.  When did paying passengers stop being treated as, well, paying passengers, and instead start being treated as an inconvenience at best, or the enemy at worst, as in Vance’s case?  You might say 9/11, but the rot had set in long before that.  I see a comment complaining about planes full of boorish passengers above.  But I can’t actually remember many plane trips where the flight attendants were anything other than borderline civil.  Hardly any wonder – there are too few of them, and because of cancellations and route reductions, the planes are usually packed to the gunwales.  Not their fault, for sure, but when you don’t have the CEO of the airline to complain to, who else can you complain to at the time?  So the chances are by the time you get on the plane, most of the flight attendants are already in an adversarial frame of mind from fielding complaints from the last four bunches of grumpy passengers on over-booked flights, and are just looking for an excuse to retaliate.  Nice, eh?  Sociopathy in the name of operational efficiency.

  54. “Any white guy knows the same thing could happen to him”

    As a white guy I am extremely confident that this would not happen to me. My years of experience at being a white guy reinforce this belief. This is both security theater and racism.

    1. If you were spotted reading an airplane technical manual on an airplane, this could happen to you. They are equal opportunity dumbasses.

      If he looked vaguely Arabic or had flowing garb or headdresses that would be another matter, but that’s not Gilbert’s situation. He looks completely middle class America. Nobody’s afraid of pudgy black men in baseball caps with Hawaiian shirts on airplanes, they’re afraid of Islamic Terrists.

  55. Corrected for inflation, airfares of the 1960s were quite a bit higher than those of today. With deregulation, airlines can compete on price, and with the internet, passengers can select among airlines based on price alone (I do, don’t you?) Since the  service is seen as a commodity, the only difference is the price, so why not get the cheapest one?

    This has created a race to the bottom, the free-market system determining just how bad a service -crowding, no meals, inflexible schedules, missed connections, and surly airline employees- you’ll put up with in order to save money.

    Commercial air travel is just a form of public transport, only flying.

  56. Can’t find his work on any of my usual p2p channels.  Drat.  Wanted to check it out (grad student here w/33 cents in my checking account till wednesday).

    As for whether or not it’s racist…I dunno.  No way to know.  Could well be.  I’m a white male, and after the attacks in New York in 2001, I did get “randomly” selected for additional screening nearly every flight.  Long hair and beard, crazy in the eyes, all that jazz.  It was me, and a lot of non-white people who got pulled aside every time.

    Colin Powell came out to the Bay Area once when I was living there, and a bunch of angry kids threw rocks at the building he was speaking in.  Supposedly the non-white kids got arrested and the white kids didn’t.  I got pissed at the anti-white racism in that.  What do we have to do?  Why would you assume we’re less dangerous, you bigoted motherfuckers?

    Anyway, peace and love to the man hassled.  As someone else said, seems like it could merit a song or two.  Art as catharsis for the artist.

  57. Easy enough, while we take off our shoes and place our liquid filled baggies on the conveyor belts and prepare to flaunt our junk for the new full body scanners we can just hand over our reading selections for the flight to TSA so they can be cleared by security.  Or better yet could only allow reading materials purchased past the security check-points in the airport, just like water!   And, problem solved.

  58. It just doesn’t seem to make sense to me that being black would be a reason to profile for terrorism on an airplane. I did look at a bunch of images of Gilbert, and depending on the light, maybe they thought he was Arabic. I could see how you could convince yourself of it. Perhaps the beard also helped lead to this conclusion, or that he was Muslim because of it.

    Not that this is an excuse for their behavior, it’s still profiling. I am just wondering what the real reason for singling the guy out.  Then again – people are pretty fucking stupid, so who knows.

    In general – the whole damn airport security is a farce. If/when they use a plane again, my money is it involving people who work at the airport – luggage, maintenance, etc.

    You have to love the, “this is Snoopy and the Red Baron stuff” line.

  59. How did no one notice, in reading the article, that his hawaiian shirt had PLANES instead of flowers on it? Planes on his shirt *and* the paper he’s reading? Too much.

    Also, I want that shirt, but now I know not to wear it on a plane.

    Edit: The T-shirt had a plane too. Also, not denying possible racism, especially when grey beards make black men look browner to racists.

    1. re: “How did no one notice, in reading the article, that his hawaiian shirt had PLANES instead of flowers on it?”

      I didn’t catch that. I wonder what it looked like. We may have the same shirt!  I have one with B-17s and B-24s on it. I get compliments from strangers nearly every time I wear it.

  60. I attended a guitar workshop with Vance Gilbert years ago at Falconridge Folk Festival.  He’s an awesome dude, great sense of humor, really charming and sweet guy, and a great musician.  He’s the last person something like this should’ve happened to.  I hope at least this event will get him some exposure and sell some records to make up for the crap he went through.

  61. If anyone knows Vance you would understand the absurdity of this event. And you’d better believe he’s got some new material for a great song. Come on GMA, Oprah, Ellen, Jon Stewart…’s time you know who Vance Gilbert is; your life can only be enhanced. (be sure you ask him to Channel Billie Holiday) I have never seen him do drugs and i loved his “old look” with the dreads, etc He is also one of the most talented and respected musicians in the “Singer-Songwriter” mode. I think Obama should have him play at the White House for a very entertaining night of good, fun music. Not black or white…..just music. My 2-Bits (Love ya Vance)

  62. Racism? Maybe. But it’s hard to say since plenty of white people have been detained for doing things even less suspicious than that.

  63. Not sure if this is Racial Profiling like he describes. Guess you’d have to be there to gauge the reactions and weigh the words of those involved. I think Mister Gilbert might have mistaken regular ignorance for racial intolerance.

     I’d be frighteningly embarrassed if I was United. Their flight crew/personnel can’t tell the difference between a book about old antique planes and one that details newer commercial airlines? The cops probably had a good laugh at their expense later. If it’d been me, I wouldn’t have let him back on the plane for his own safety… the crew operating the plane was obviously too stupid to live. 

  64. A lot of misunderstandings like this could be prevented if the white flight attendants would just brush up on their Jive.

  65. There’s this really charming (I guess, since it demonstrates misplaced faith in humanity) idea in this thread that if you’re a) white, b) not doing anything wrong, that this could not happen to you. So wrong. This is a fairly common reaction from people who’ve been molested in the
    name of security theater: ‘But I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I don’t look anything like a terrorist, I never thought this could happen to me, I don’t understand why this happened to me.’

    I got hit with it when one of their buggy scanners acted up, and was treated a lot less politely than he was – if the scanner shows something around your neck, even though we can clearly see with our eyes there is nothing around your neck and the wand shows nothing, there must be something around your neck, so we’d better full body molest you – what? But the little rudeness I experienced was nothing compared to what these people experienced, and this is just the tip of the iceberg:

    Likewise thinking that the stewardess wouldn’t have freaked out seeing you with airplane diagrams just because you’re so obviously harmless. This is past the bounds of sanity, normal checks don’t apply.

    1. “There’s this really charming (I guess, since it demonstrates misplaced
      faith in humanity) idea in this thread that if you’re a) white, b) not
      doing anything wrong, that this could not happen to you.”

      I don’t see anyone saying it COULD NOT happen, just that it is less likely if you are white. Do you honestly believe the chances are exactly the same regardless of race? Talk about your charming ideas!

      Also he was not reading airplane diagrams, but a book on old airplanes.

      1. I’ve got no problem with the idea that it’s more likely if you’re non-white, heck I believe that’s true, but the comments are: ‘I am a six foot tall white man.  I can assure you that if I was sitting on a plane reading a book on 1920’s aircraft no one would have done a thing’. So yes, people are saying it COULD NOT happen.

    2. Boy, that threw me into a tizzy. 

      “What thing around my neck? Really, I have something around my neck? Am I going crazy, I don’t feel or see anything around my neck. What, the MACHINE says I have something around my  neck? But you told me, your boss and the federal authorities that you don’t see anything around my neck. This could only mean 1 of 3 things, whatever is around my neck is under my skin or invisible or the machine is wrong…..What? You’re denying me boarding because you believe I’m delusional?”

  66. It kind of pisses me off how employees of TSA are scapegoated for every f-ed up thing that happens at the airport. Everyone is miserable at the airport. My only experiences with TSA agents have been good ones – no rudeness, no “sexual assault” – whereas the ticket counter folks are horrific. I have a feeling that if the majority of TSA employees were not non white, that you guys woudn’t have such an overextended sense of animosity towards them.

    1. ‘ I have a feeling that if the majority of TSA employees were not non
      white, that you guys woudn’t have such an overextended sense of
      animosity towards them.’

      Thank you for the most asinine comment in this entire thread. Everyone who doesn’t agree with you is racist – which is generally the attitude, but nobody was quite willing to just come out and say that till now.

    2. You’re right, this is not about T.S.A. at all, he met them on his way to his flight, right? Too many people going off on a tangent. 

      Come back to center people!


    “Once you go back to the gate (which is the LAST resort) and the police are involved the passenger NEVER comes back to the plane. hmmm’


  68. This ongoing online research project from Harvard shows you some of your subconscious … “isms”. The link is to their demonstration tests, so you can pick a group that you believe you feel neutral about just to see. It’s kind of informative and interesting. You can also participate in their research, but then they just pick a test for you.

  69. Another quote from my flight attendant (20+ years)  friend:

    “And again, if it’s a security-safety concern issue, you don’t get quickly put right back on the plane. The SOONEST is the NEXT flight out if at ALL. We don’t mess around with that.


  70. 147 CONFUSED PEOPLE (so far)…..

    No WONDER there’s so much confusion regarding this post, it has conflicting information depending on which link you follow:  (letter)

    (Gilbert Quote) “The plane went all the way out to the TAKE-OFF POINT, IN THE QUEUE FOR TAKE-OFF.”(This means the jet left the gate and taxied all the way out and “prepared to take off” you know, when the pilot tells the crew to “prepare for takeoff”, trays up, seats up, and all that junk)

    (According to Gilbert), As the plane PREPARED FOR TAKEOFF, “2 Mass State Policemen, 1 or 2 TSA Agents, and the bursar for the flight come down the [aisle] and motion me to get off of the plane”.

    The SECOND one is impossible. For it to be correct it would have to say “prepared to leave the gate”, those five didn’t come down the aisle while the jet was heading towards the runway. When posting something as “volitile” as race and the state of our airports’ security, there should not be such a glaring conflict of information. 


    1. From Vance’s Letter:
      “The plane went all the way out to the take-off point, in the queue for take-off… The plane then proceeded to turn around and head all the way back to the gate.”

      Don’t see any conflict of info.  The plane left the gate was on the runway cued for take off and returned to the gate.

  71. Any time race comes up in the comments section of Boing Boing, it breaks my heart that people don’t at least read some Racism 101 first. I consider Boing Boing’s reader base to be fairly educated, and fairly educated racists depress the living hell out of me.

  72. I am outraged by this but I too question the racism angle.  It certainly could have been racially motivated by some wacky up-tight flight attendant but we don’t know.  I am just sick and tired of those who trot out a racism accusation with nothing to back it up.  Such and such happened?  Well surely it must be racism.  If that’s the approach we’re going use from now on, then nothing ever will be solved.  

  73. All this could have been avoided if the flight attendant hadn’t thought it was someone else’s problem and just engaged the man with the loud shirt on what sounded liked a throughly interesting book on aeroplanes like the policeman did.

  74. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there is as much splitting of hairs as there is here, but it sure is frustrating. Why is it so hard to imagine that race might’ve played a part in this situation? Of course none of us know with absolute certainty if race was a factor since (I assume) none of us are the flight attendant in question or were even on the flight. Given my life experiences, having encountered so very many racists, from openly hateful and prejudiced to casual don’t-even-know-how-racist-they-are/some of my best friends are X, racists…I just don’t think it’s such a stretch to assume it played a part in what happened. I’m also not buying that making this assumption somehow trivializes  “real” racism, that is just bullshit.

    1. Yes, all the assumptions are frustrating. I have no doubt that this could be racist and that black men encounter racism every single day. But the logic reiterated time and time again in the comments, is that:
      1) this happened.
      2) he was black.
      3) this couldn’t happen to a white man.
      4) therefore it was racism.

      #3 is wrong, and lazy. ‘You have not shown this is racism’ is NOT immediately equal to ‘this is not racism’. This is only true in a facile binary system. And yes, by spending your political capital on calling this racism when there is zero evidence of that, you are trivializing it, and people outside can then write racism off as a solved problem, because you’ve given them the justification.

      I am splitting hairs here because people in an echo chamber are unaware of how this looks to anyone outside it. I am acutely aware that even though I believe in deep rooted racism in America, asking for some evidence that this was racism makes me the moral equivalent of the Imperial Grand Wizard of the KKK in your eyes. This is the same thing that drives me batty about the global warming debate. I believe it’s happening, but that you’re (royal you) doing such a bad job explaining it that you’re effectively neutering yourself.

    2. Jeeb – It isn’t hard at all to imagine that race could have been a factor.  It’s not a stretch.  However, faced with not having any facts or other information, it serves no point to accuse anyone of racism when it might not have been a factor.  Vance Gilbert didn’t theorize whether or not racism played a factor – he assumed it without question or knowledge.  And yes, I understand why he might do so.  However, if we’re ever going to rise above this and finally judge people on the content of their character and not the color of their skin, well then we better start being 100% clear and consistent what racism actually is.  And as a society we should not tolerate racism. But if every possible transgression can always be written off as racism then we are doomed.

  75. This is ridiculous.  Of course this could have been racially motivated.  Could have been.  But the logic that this must be racism is insane.  Yes, we know many black people are unfairly targeted and we have to be extra vigilant for this disgusting practice.  But that is no reason to assume that all instances such as this are racially motivated.  Here we have not one item or fact (other than the man’s skin color) that would suggest racism. What if the flight attendant who took note of the “airplane” book was also black?  Would this change things?  There’s just too many things we don’t know about this case.  Perhaps the cover of the book had a picture of plane on fire crashing into the ground.  Would this change things?  How can we live in a society where no charges or concerns can be levied against a minority for fear of racial accusations?

  76. My point is simply that there is *probably* some racism involved here. I admit that I am assuming that this based on what little information I have here. What would constitute enough evidence for you guys to accept that racism *probably* played a part in his treatment? If you asked the flight attendant (and ya, I’m going to assume she is not black, although I’m not sure that really matters for my argument) I’m quite sure she would deny any racial profiling, that’s kind of how this type of subtle, casual racism works. What would constitute sufficient evidence of racial profiling here?

  77. ‘My point is simply that there is *probably* some racism involved here. … What would constitute enough evidence for you guys to accept that racism *probably* played a part in his treatment?’

    Anything, even in the victim’s statements, which indicated his race was a factor at all. I’ve read all his statements I could find and there is absolutely nothing to indicate the attendant or anyone else cared one whit about his race, and only cared that he was reading a book about airplanes on an airplane.

    There is nothing to indicate that this is racially motivated. There is also nothing to indicate it is not racially motivated. There is no indication either way. Even the victim doesn’t provide a hint that it’s racist, even when he could be playing it to the hilt (and I commend him for that), other than ‘it happened to me’.  But you think it’s *probably* racism anyhow.

    Jesus, people, I generally agree with you about systemic racism, and I realize I’m stepping on your dogma here, but this is just lazy. Why is it *probably* racist? This is the same logic Christians use to see everything as an anti-Christian conspiracy. WELL IT JUST IS.

  78. Racism? Plain old stupidity more like. 
    If I was a policeman, I cannot for the life of me imagine saying anything other than ‘so what’, if someone reported to me that a passenger was reading a book about aeroplanes and wondering if the reporting person was mentally deficient to suggest it was suspicious.

  79. Ha ha, the joke is really on the TSA.  I’m sure this “Wannabe Terrorist” had the real contraband in his backpack–A book on medieval weaponry.  The antique aircraft book was simply a decoy. 

    Just bought a CD to support this “Terrorist” and I don’t even find his style of music all that appealing. Just want to support him.

    He may want us to think it’s a race thing but I’m not too sure about that. However, I empathize with anyone, regardless of race, gender, religion etc that is harassed under the auspices of “Security”.

  80. I think airport security grumps pick their victims regardless of skin color, citing other “risk” behavior  such as “book reading.” They humiliated me in front of dozens of passengers for over an hour because I had a funny hair color. 

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I shall return to my nightly white-guy time by drinking this jar of Mayonaise in my bathtub full of $100 bills!

    1. “Folks yelling at the government should read the full account. The cops responded to the flight crew’s “concerns”, looked at the material, and let him back on the plane. So the government behaved properly in this case. The flight crew? Not so much.”

      Yes, the flight crew behaved abominably. But they behaved abominably because the government has spent the last decade telling them that’s the right – or Right – way to behave. “See something, say something.” “Zero tolerance.” Cameras everywhere. And on and on. Funnily enough, the sickly dysfunctional role model the government has provided and funded for the last decade has consequences. And Jackass flight crews are one example.

  81. Thanks so much for turning us on to Vince Gilbert. His tribute to Bill Morrissey is just beautiful. I can’t wait to hear Vince in person one of these days.

  82. Illustration of problem:

    Waitress: “What you reading for?”Customer: “I read for a lot of reasons, but I guess the main one is so I don’t end up being a f*cking waffle waitress!”

    Thank goodness for -Mr Hicks-

  83. I’m all in favor of profiling, but the kind where you ask passengers casual questions to weed out those with other reasons for flying other than going from point A to point B.
    As far as I’m concerned, a 6 foot black man is NOT going to hijack the airplane. Neither is the 70 year old with a colostomy bag or the 6 year old or the mentally ill man with a plastic wrench. Racial profiling and random selection are both doomed to fail on grounds of both security and civil liberties.

    PS I’m no big fan of the ACLU either. They take up some good causes, but they also pick up some nutjob cases.

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