United Airlines Passenger A Victim Of Racism? Asian Dr. David Dao Compared To Rosa Parks, Sparks China Boycott

The violent ejection of Dr. David Dao from a United Airlines flight on Sunday has garnered a variety of reactions, from shock to outrage, with many calling for a boycott, according to the Inquisitr. A subset of this reaction is the interpretation held by many that the assault on Dr. Dao by United Airlines staff was actually an expression of racism, with some comparing the mistreated doctor to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, according to USA Today.

The decision by United Airlines to remove an Asian doctor from a purportedly overbooked flight made waves on Sunday when a video taken by a fellow passenger of the encounter went viral, according to the Inquisitr. On a Sunday flight from Chicago, United Airlines asked four volunteers to leave the flight to make room for extra flight crew that were needed at the plane’s destination in Kentucky. After no one volunteered, United decided to choose passengers “at random” to leave. After one of the chosen passengers, Dr. David Dao, refused to leave, United Airlines staff decided to remove him by force. In the video, Dr. David Dao can be heard screaming as he was dragged down the aisle and out of the plane.


USA Today reports that David Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, received an email from an individual who compared Dao to Rosa Parks because he refused to give up his seat when accosted by authorities. Twitter users echoed this comparison, with one stating, “David Dao was like the Asian Rosa Parks but more brutal.”


In the news conference where these comments were made, Demetrio prefaced his statements by saying that he didn’t believe the attack was motivated by race, stating, “What happened to Doctor Dao could have happened to any one of us.”

But it seems to be that many observers of this incident around the world feel that race did in fact play a role.

The Telegraph reports that almost 85 million posts were made about United Airlines’ treatment of David Dao on Sina Weibo, known as China’s Twitter, by 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Many individuals on Weibo used this incident as an opportunity to call out what they viewed as America’s hypocrisy regarding human rights, while others re-posted a statement on discrimination made by Chinese comedian Joe Wong.

“Many Chinese people feel they’ve been discriminated against, but (losing) face prevents them from speaking out. This leads to discrimination not being taken seriously by mainstream media in the West and the public.”

According to Pew Research, Asians are the best-educated, highest-income racial group in the U.S. The survey reports that most Asian-Americans do not feel a sense of racial discrimination, with only one-in-five saying that they were treated unfairly or discriminated against because they are Asian. However, according to Joe Wong, such results may be affected by cultural shame about reporting unfair treatment. In any event, the United Airlines assault on David Dao has reignited the debate on discrimination against Asian-Americans, with anger traveling all the way to China.

Dr. David Dao's daughter, Crystal Dao Pepper sits with attorney at press conference

The outrage among Chinese citizens was not restricted to angry internet posts. Many have called for a boycott of United Airlines, which claims to be the number one provider of China-U.S. flights. The airline has direct flights from the U.S. to Shanghai, Xi’an, Beijing, Chengdu, and Hangzhou, according to the Telegraph. The boycott in China, fueled by racial outrage, seems to be strong despite United Airlines’ leadership role in such flights. One protester stated the following.

“Chinese nationals should protest until the end. Chinese nationals are bullied everywhere.”

Although United passenger Tyler Bridges stated that Dao felt that he had been singled out because of his race, many Twitter users felt that the comparison to Rosa Parks was inappropriate, according to USA Today. The Root states that David Dao should not be compared to Rosa Parks because his refusal to leave his seat was not part of a civil rights protest. Rather, it was due to his concern about getting to his job at the Kentucky hospital on time to see his patients. Additionally, there were no signs or official policies stating that Asians were prohibited from flying on the plane or stating that they must sit in designated areas, as was the case with African-Americans during Rosa Parks’ famous protest.


Regardless of whether the assault on Dr. Dao was motivated by race, this perception has caused a stir in Asian communities in the U.S. and around the world. According to the Telegraph, United Airlines has apologized for the assault on David Dao, but this gesture did not seem to quell any outrage or reduce the enthusiasm for boycotting the company.

[Featured Image by AP Images, File]