A Black social worker has filed a lawsuit against American Airlines, claiming that flight attendants accused her of kidnapping a White child she was escorting to Southern California.
Black Woman Accused Of Kidnapping White Toddler On American Airlines Files Lawsuit
Shannon Murphy is a social worker for Riverside County in Southern California’s Inland Empire. Last October, she was escorting a toddler from Arkansas to Ontario, California via Dallas-Fort Worth. The young boy was visiting his father under court order and Murphy was tasked to bring him home.
While at DFW, a passenger told two flight attendants that she suspected Murphy had kidnapped the baby. The passenger referenced a kidnapping that had been in the news, though that kidnapping had taken place in New York and been of a Hispanic child who was older. This child had pale skin and blonde hair.
“I just didn’t know what to do. I was scared.”
Flight attendants asked Murphy to exit the aircraft and took the baby from her, demanding she produce proof she had a right to transport him. Even though Murphy produced a court order for the trip, her work ID, and the child’s birth certificate, they still forced her off the aircraft.
Murphy told Business Insider:
“During this time, the baby was reaching for me and crying. One of the flight attendants had grabbed the bottle out of my bag to give the baby, but I said not to. It was my last bottle.
“Everything just started upsetting me then because we get these kids, and we take them where they’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to provide safety for these children because they’re ours when we have them. I just didn’t know what to do. I was scared.”
Eventually, Murphy was let back onboard and the aircraft took off for Ontario.
Her lawsuit claims civil rights violations, false imprisonment, and negligence. She is now seeking compensation for medical expenses as well as punitive damages.
An American Airlines spokesperson said:
“We are reviewing the lawsuit and the details of the flight. We take the safety and comfort of our customers very seriously and we’re committed to providing a positive experience for everyone who travels with us.”
This was undoubtedly a traumatic incident for Murphy. To be accused of kidnapping on the basis of your skin color (why else would such an allegation be made, whether there was a kidnapping in the news or not?) is deeply dismaying. And like the Black doctors onboard whose credentials are doubted, so to the “better safe than sorry” approach rings hollow here, or at least incomplete. But Murphy’s story is now being heard. Hopefully future inquires will be handled more tenderly.