American Airlines is facing a backlash from some employees over a recent decision to allow flight attendants and other employees to wear “Black Lives Matter” pins on their uniforms. There are many issues to unpack here.
American Airlines Designing Special Black Lives Matter Pin For Employees
American Airlines says this is not political:
“Clearly we live in a time where it is so important to have a dialogue about this important issue of racism in our society and try to find common ground…Fundamentally, Black Lives Matter is an expression of equality. It doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter, rather that in our society black lives should matter and be valued the same as others. That’s not political.”
Sadly, that’s very political in our present political climate in the United States of America. Whether it should or shouldn’t be doesn’t matter.
Jill Surdek, American Airlines’ SVP of Flight Services, noted that specially-designed pins are on the way:
“American is truly committed to having an inclusive culture that is welcoming to all and a reflection of our country and world. One symbolic way to show our support is through a uniform pin. We are working with our Black Professional Network on designing a specific pin that may be worn with the uniform. In the interim until this pin is produced, to recognize the significance of this moment in history, we are allowing people to wear a Black Lives Matter Pin.”
This has led to backlash from some flight attendants.
Some Employees Are Angry
One AA flight attendant told the New York Post:
“I take offense to this. Serious offense. My husband is a LEO (Law Enforcement Officer), as was my deceased father and as far as I’m concerned ALL LIVES MATTER. I am completely disgusted at the fact that we can’t show support for our GOD, our COUNTRY, our LEOs but when it comes to BLM organization (which is controversial in itself), American Airlines says that’s obviously different. How is that right? Well, I don’t feel included.”
Another flight attendant told Fox News that she will wear a Trump pin if BLM pins are allowed. Others fear they will be branded racist if they do not wear the pin.
Some on the political right are calling for a boycott of American Airlines over this stance.
Pin-demonium At American Airlines
We talk about BLM as if it is a single entity, but it is really many smaller organizations. Thus, trying to pin down the movement on certain beliefs or statements is generally not helpful.
Nevertheless, blacklivesmatters.com, which holds itself out as an umbrella website for the movement, articulates a broader vision of justice than simply equal justice on the basis of Black skin color:
“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
“We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).”
Or the BLM Washington, DC group, which describes itself as:
“BLM DC is a radical collective of Black artists, infrastructure builders and movement healers and strategists from the future, organizing in the here and now around two movement equations. These equations inform how we live as our highest selves while dismantling White Supremacy, Patriarchy, Capitalism, Imperialism and the role the state plays in supporting them.”
Overthrow capitalism? My point is that BLM, and by extension BLM pins, are inherently political.
And thus one should certainly be able to understand why some are uncomfortable with their company supporting such a movement. That doesn’t betray racism on the part of the skeptic.
I’ve made my own position quite clear…you can read that here if you are interested. I will add here the the concept of boycotting American Airlines over this is absurd, as if all other airlines have not jumped on the bandwagon.
I’m thinking through the repercussions of this and how I would style such uniform guidelines if I were in charge. I’m not ready to say “ban all pins” and certainly cannot sign on to an “anything goes” approach when it comes to wardrobe accoutrements. This is a very difficult issue. I’d welcome your thoughts on it in the comments section below.
American is “truly committed to having an inclusive culture that is welcoming to all and a reflection of our country and world.” I think we can all sign onto that. But I can certainly understand why the pin issue is divisive. More importantly, I would hope that we can all show that Black lives matter by our actions toward one another, not by a tiny pin on our lapel.