The shocking images of a bloodied 69-year-old Vietnamese-American doctor being forcefully dragged off a domestic US flight, as the flight was reportedly overbooked, were still fresh in memory when I stumbled upon the video of a woman forcefully being dragged off a plane. I saw police pulling the woman from her seat and drag her through the aisle exposed with torn pants, humiliating her for the world to see in a now viral video. After realising the woman was someone I knew added to the level of shock. That the woman was two-months pregnant at the time and on her way to see her ailing father struck a poignant chord with me. The woman in question is Anila Daulatzai, a respected scholar who has taught at prestigious institutions, including Harvard University, Brown University and LUMS. In my meeting with Anila, I found her to be an intelligent intellectual gifted in the art of articulating ideas perspicuously. It was to my surprise then when I read Southwest Airlines’ statement that the passenger, Anila, had told them she had life-threatening dog allergies. The airline later stated that her refusal to get off the plane forced them to act in that way. I wondered that how did a woman like Anila failed to explain it to the flight crew that her allergies were not life-threatening and she was safe at a fair distance from the dogs. It turns out that she did. She did tell the cabin crew that her allergies were not life-threatening and she was safe because of the distance between her and the dogs. The airline’s statement read, “Our reports indicate the customer stated she had a life-threatening pet allergy, but she was unable to provide the medical certificate necessary to complete travel. There was one emotional support animal and one pet onboard the aircraft.” The statement continued, “Our policy states that a customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal onboard. Our flight crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved. We do not have any further comment to provide.” There are two things wrong with that statement. Firstly, Southwest Airlines’ website, at the time of writing, does not mention the required medical certificate. Although it does state that airline representatives will seat a passenger with an allergy, far away from the animal, as Anila claims she was trying to do. “If a customer is severely affected by allergies to an animal and notifies us of his/her allergy at the departure gate, we can ensure that the customer with the allergy is seated as far away from the animal as possible,” Southwest Airlines’ policy states. Secondly, as corroborated by another passenger, Anila did not tell the flight crew her allergies were life-threatening. Anila said that the crew initially agreed she could sit far away from the dogs – as their policy suggests they do in such cases – but later told her they were ‘concerned’ about her being on the plane. So, what prompted the airline and the police to engage in the behaviour they did? Anila claimed in an interview that she was a victim of racial profiling, and the incident would have been handled differently if she was not a person of colour. I tend to agree. The incident also made me think if the treatment Anila suffered had something to do with the colour of her skin and if that enabled the airline and police to behave in the way they did. I couldn’t help but recall the numerous videos of people of colour being manhandled by police in the US. The image of Eric Garner, a black man, accused of selling untaxed cigarettes, being put in a chokehold by a New York City Police Department (NYPD) police officer is one of those. The police officer put Garner in a chokehold for roughly 20 seconds while his colleagues heaped on top of him, despite Garner’s repeated pleas that he couldn’t breathe. NYPD policy prohibits the use of chokeholds. Garner died in the hospital an hour later and the medical examiner concluded he was killed by “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police”. The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide but a jury decided not to indict the responsible officer(s). Contrast this to the image of Dylann Roof, a white supremacist and terrorist, who killed nine black people in a church, being escorted in handcuffs in a way that one would think he was just arrested for jaywalking. So, a question that boggles the mind is would Anila had been treated the way she was, if she was not a person of colour. I wonder what’d have happened if it was the other way round, and the person with the dog allergies was not a person of colour. Published in Daily Times, October 10th 2017.