Comedian/Actor Michael Colyar took to Facebook early this week to draw attention to his claim of discrimination after he says was removed from a United Airlines flight by (what he calls) a racist, “power hungry” flight attendant.
Read his version of the events as he says they unfolded on Monday, Aug. 29th:
United Airlines Disgrace
by Michael Colyar on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 1:57pm
I am a loyal United Airlines Customer correction, I was a loyal United Airlines customer. I have flown with united for over 17 years (a recorded fact). My wife was a United Airlines flight attendant for 25years. According to United Airlines records I am something they call “Executive Premier”. I find now that if you’re black that’s just an inside joke. After the treatment they metered out of me yesterday they can kiss the darkest recesses of a part of my anatomy that I am to dignified to state.
Yesterday, Aug 29, 2011 at approximately 12:30pm Est., I was unceremoniously thrown off flight #UA382 in a hostile and racist manner, not only did it cost me time and potential income (as I was headed to the NAACP Theater Awards in Los Angeles) but it caused me great embarrassment and put a tarnish on my other wise unblemished reputation because not only were there other people of color watching me be treated as a felon but also fans of mine who were all lead to believe that I had done something worthy of a public and humiliating outing. The fact being I did nothing wrong. I broke no rules, United’s, FAA, or humanities. Because I had the gumption to exhibit a backbone, I was summarily punished and taught a “Lesson”
Here’s what happened: I was comfortably sitting in seat #12f on flight #382. I had gotten on early as a “perk” of being a “Premier Executive”. I had put one bag under my seat and my computer bag and hat in the overhead compartment, a Stated Right that all passengers have. I was comfortable. My flight began in Columbus, Oh, where I had just completed five performances in three days and I was transferring planes at Dulles Int. A brother was tired and looking forward to a comfortable flight. I had set up my water and headphones, wrapped up in my blankie and all was well.
Toward the end of the boarding process a woman entered the plane, last minute with a suitcase that, by right should have been checked luggage. She arrived huffing and puffing slightly winded and was greeted by one of the flight attendants’ with a hug of recognition and together they sought to find a space for this large suitcase. This so called “flight attendant”, after checking many overhead spaces finding them all full (no surprise considering her lateness of arrival) reached the overhead bin for our row. She exclaimed “Oh, well put it here we’ll just move this hat and bag, whose is it?” I responded that it was mine. She said you’ll have to stow it under your seat. My other bag was already under the seat so I asked why do I have to remove my bag being that I’m allowed one space in the overhead. She said this space is for larger bags I need to remove mine.
I was confused. I was being told to eliminate my leg room so this flight attendants friend could get her last minute oversized bag in. I told her that it was my understanding we get one overhead space for our bag and I couldn’t understand why I had to fly 4 ½ hours without leg room so her friend could be comfortable. After all isn’t it first come first served, Am I “premier exec” or not.
They whispered something to themselves gave me a look, then preceded down the aisle with their search for space. After not finding any they put her bag up in first class. Now, this so called “flight attendant” stood at the front of the plane at the entrance, whispering something to the other flight attendants and constantly giving me ugly looks which was not difficult considering her actual looks.
I now became concerned for my comfort and safety on this flight. With her behavior I would be scared to eat or drink anything she would serve me. So I rang the call button to ask to speak to the head flight attendant. This same so called flight attendant returned and when I requested the head flight attendant she went back to the others and they had another pow-wow while giving me these nasty looks. Instead of bringing over the head flight attendant the brought over the lady who works the counter. When I said I wanted to speak to the head flight attendant, she said “you can speak to her or nobody.” So I said I need to lodge a complaint and they both walked away.
They proceeded to have one more pow-wow this time they brought in the Captain, once again they all looked at me, did their whisper and she said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I want him off the plane”.
Five minutes later, security appears. A Ben Milan, ground security coordinator in a demanding tone said, as he leaned over the two people next to me, “could you grab your bag and step off the plane and talk to me. “ I responded “will I miss my flight if I get off” He responded “I’m gonna ask you one more time to get your bags and step off the plane or I will call the DC police to assist you.
The two people next to me got up and moved fast, sensing danger. In an effort to not further escalate an already volatile situation, I grab my bags and exited. Mr. Milan stated that the captain wants you off the plane. I said “what have I done” He repeated, I need you off the plane then we can talk. Once we started to walk up the jet way they closed the door and took off.
Without this guy asking me my side, without him actually talking to the captain, the flight attendants or me I was forced to leave the plane.
The flight attendant and her friend got just what they wanted, the ni**er off the plane. I’m sure they feel a great triumph in putting an uppity ni**er in his place. After all, after 9-11 went down the need for courtesy and fairness flew out the window. Airlines used to be great places to go. Flying used to be fun, even elegant. But since 9-11 the airlines use the terrorist terror to humiliate and bully passengers at every turn. You can’t ask two questions or speak up for what is right because they know that with no justification at all they can throw you off the plane and even have you arrested. This security coordinator used that fear laden Gestapo tactic to deal with a situation that could’ve been handled reasonably with a simple conversation.
He maintains that this is their procedure and I maintain that if it is, it is terribly flawed and needs a drastic overhaul. At the least I should be suing united airlines for theft of services, public humiliation and defamation of character.
How is my situation any different then that of Rose Parks. I wouldn’t surrender my space so the white lady could be comfortable, so they throw me off the plane…no questions asked.
United Airlines have forgotten that they are a service I paid for and I paid the same amount or more than the white lady of privilege that they spent so much time accommodating and kissing her behind. I believe that if I was a white guy in a suit I would have at least been asked my side, by the head of attendant, the captain or the security, but being a person of color, what Actually happened didn’t matter. The so called “flight attendant” wouldn’t give her name but she’s easy to describe, white, about 5’9, straight black stringy hair and a harsh face.
If “Don’t ask questions, just throw the ni**er off the plane” is the post 9-11 policy then black folks should seek out other airlines…
United Airlines has issued the following statement… “As a global airline with a diverse workforce, United has zero tolerance for any type of discrimination and we take every such matter seriously. We spoke to Mr. Colyar Wednesday so that we can address his concerns, and committed to get back to him as we learn more from our coworkers and other customers onboard.”
Sources connected to the incident say multiple passengers have been interviewed about the situation.