Khaled Beydoun, a law professor, civil rights activist and author of a book on Islamaphobia, has stirred wide interest on Twitter with his account of treatment by the pilot of a regional jet after landing Sunday evening at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
Beydoun, who I've been unable to reach, has written in multiple posts on Twitter that the pilot put his hands on him and treated him "like a criminal" when he tried to talk to him about a complaint. Beydoun's complaint, which he didn't specify on Twitter, apparently stemmed from his reassignment from a business class seat to a seat in the plane's "comfort class," which has extra legroom but not as much space as the first cabin. Beydoun suggested he may have been reassigned because of race and his Muslim religion. He wrote in one of the Twitter posts:
I know that Flying While Brown has always been a concern. But now Landing While Brown is also frightening.
Beydoun, 40, was flying on a Delta flight in a 76-seat regional jet operated by Endeavor Air. He'd apparently been upgraded from a main cabin ticket to 1C through a frequent flyer perk, but learned in boarding that he wouldn't be allowed to take the seat. The airline says the seat had to be taken by a flight attendant under aircraft operating rules because the jumpseat the attendant normally would use was inoperable. Beydoun objected and suggested he was being racially or religiously profiled. The airline attendant denied that.
The encounter with the pilot came as Beydoun waited on the jet bridge for his bag at the Arkansas airport. He wrote that the pilot directed him to come to him and grabbed him by the neck. The pilot disputed any physical contact, both in a report taken by airport police and in a prepared Delta statement.
For more background, here's a portion of Beydoun's Twitter thread. Also, here's the extensive XNA police report narrative, in which the pilot, Timothy Hovelsrud, in the course of denying physical contact, also is quoted as saying Beydoun "played the race card." Also here's Delta's prepared statement:
"Delta is aware of the allegations and we are investigating. Based upon the information available to us at this time we understand the following:
A customer on Endeavor Air flight 5325 was reseated from seat 1C to 5B to accommodate a working crewmember in seat 1C due to an inoperative jump seat, as is required by Endeavor's standard operating procedures. We regret that the customer perceived the seat change was anything but procedural. Prior to departure, Delta apologized to the customer for the seat change and provided a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience.
Upon arrival at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) the customer requested to speak with the Captain regarding his seating concerns. The Captain spoke with the customer in the jet bridge but ultimately requested the presence of law enforcement in response to false allegations of physical contact. We take any such allegations seriously and Delta is in contact with the customer.
There are several threads of comments on Beydoun's Twitter account with more on the incident. In one thread, he and critics of the pilot objected to those who asked for more context about what led to the encounter. Beydoun wrote, in two posts :
It's no coincidence that when a Person of Color is wronged or victimized, the **first question** they often get is:
"What did YOU do?"
If I were a white male, I don't think the captain would've engaged me with that kind of disregard and disrespect.
Much less, put his hands on me. What sort of professional finds it OK to tell another grown man "Come over here" and puts his hands on him?
Beydoun's website includes this biographical information:
Khaled A. Beydoun is a leading scholar on Islamophobia, national security and anti-terrorism law, and civil liberties. He serves as an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, and is Senior Affiliated Faculty at the University of California-Berkeley Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project. A Critical Race Theorist, Professor Beydoun's research has been published in top law journals, and his book, American Islamophobia: The Roots and Rise of Fear, will be published by the Univ. of California Press in 2018.
He's listed on the UA Law School website as associate professor of law. He joined the faculty this school year.
Among the Tweets by Beydoun Sunday evening were these that began the account:
I just got off a @Delta flight in Arkansas... while waiting on the jetway to issue a complaint to the captain, he grabbed me by my neck and told me to "come here," shouts at me in front of passengers, **THEN** Calls the POLICE.
This is how @Delta treats their Platinum members.
I'm a law professor and a member of the US Civil Rights Commisson. But the captain saw a brown man and proceeded to disrespect me then called the police.
I fly with @delta 3-5 times a month, if not more. How is this acceptable ?
The captain of the @Delta flight thought it was OK to grab me, push me up the jetway, then minutes later, 4 policeman marched over and spoke to him FIRST. They closed the door of the jetway and spoke to the captain.
Nobody from @delta at the airport came to speak to me.
My name is Khaled Ali Beydoun, the captain has a roster of the passengers.
This is Trump's America, it happened in the South, and I'm Arab and Muslim.
YES - the possibility of this being racially and religiously related is present.
His posts have prompted thousands of responses, many sympathetic and some derogatory about Arkansas and the South. The Clinton National Airport posted on Twitter to make clear the episode hadn't happened in Little Rock.