On Dec. 21, YouTube star Adam Saleh was reportedly removed from a Delta flight for "speaking Arabic." Saleh runs the YouTube Channel TrueStoryASA, which boasts over 1.6 million subscribers, so news of his run-in with Delta airlines quickly gained international attention, followed by the trending hashtag #BoycottDelta. Delta Airlines has issued an official statement, saying:
Two customers were removed from this flight and later rebooked after a disturbance in the cabin resulted in more than 20 customers expressing their discomfort. We're conducting a full review to understand what transpired. We are taking allegations of discrimination very seriously; our culture requires treating others with respect.
Many of the #BoycottDelta tweets express solidarity with Saleh, and outrage that anyone would be kicked off a flight for speaking a different language. However, some cautioned against jumping to conclusions, noting Saleh's past history of "pranking" people. (Look for more information as that investigation gets under way.)
This is not the first accusation of discrimination brought against Delta. In October, Texas OB-GYN Dr. Tamika Cross reported that her offers to help a sick passenger were rebutted, allegedly because of her skin color and gender.
Perhaps it's not so surprising then that Twitter has been bombarded with #BoycottDelta tweets. And first among them is Saleh's video:
The live video is pretty telling, with some passengers expressing their opposition to Saleh's removal, while others wave a careless goodbye.
Constitutional Rights To Free Speech
Many tweets referenced Constitutional rights to free speech, and the clear violation of such if Delta did indeed remove Saleh simply for speaking in Arabic.
Past Delta Controversies
Several tweeters also brought up the case of Dr. Tamika Cross, who in October reported that when she offered her medical expertise on a Delta flight, she was refused because of assumptions made based on her gender and racial identity. (Cross is an OB-GYN at the University of Texas-Houston.)
There Are Other Languages Besides English
Another popular theme was simply pointing out the obvious: languages besides English exist, that's a good thing, and stereotyping foreigners or those who are bilingual is not only wrong, but also counterproductive.
Trump Supporters Question The Story
Perhaps not surprising is the way reactions to Saleh often seemed to break down along partisan lines. Several self-declared Trump supporters were quick to question Saleh's account of things.
Some Thought The Situation Was Straightforward
Also in the skeptics column were right-leaning tweeters with an anti-political correctness bent.
What's unfortunate in this #BoycottDelta breakdown, beyond the obvious problem with kicking a person off an airline simply for speaking a different language (if that is what happened), is that many people seem unable to view this event apart from preexisting political biases. Rather than recognize that if his Constitutional rights were violated, then Saleh should have the support of everyone, many Twitter users appear ready to throw accusations at the other side, without much regard for the facts. Reactions to #BoycottDelta are sadly indicative of the current political atmosphere.