United Airlines introduced optional Blacks Lives Matter pins for employees last week. Employees must purchase them, but are allowed to wear them on their uniforms; one of the few exceptions to United’s dress and appearance policy that prohibits most pins and other accoutrements. A United pilot sent me a detailed note explaining why he was against such pins. He asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. I know he speaks for many employees and felt his prose was well-written and his points worthy of discussion.
United Pilots Explains Why He Opposes BLM Pins
It is undeniable that African Americans have faced historical discrimination in the United States. It is also true that despite great progress, equality in opportunity has not been achieved when some continue to see our Black brothers and sisters as inherently suspect merely on the basis of their skin color. But addressing this matter through a divisive and inherently political pin while prohibiting other pins will merely cause more division and hinder the very goal of equality and reconciliation such pins purport to espouse.
I know that Black Lives Matter is not an organization, but a movement. And I fully and wholly subscribe to the notion that black lives do indeed matter. To say so does not mean or imply that other lives matter less. Rather, it recognizes a truth amongst a historically-marginalized people and is a sign of solidarity that all lives truly matter.
Nevertheless, I have strong reservations about this pin and United’s selective endorsement of political causes.
I choose to prove that Black lives matter through my daily interactions of showing respect, kindness and inclusion to ALL employees and customers I come into contact with; no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. I don’t need a pin as an affirmation of who I am as a person. The statement Black lives matter should be supported by ALL.
But certain organizations have hijacked the BLM slogan to go way beyond the pursuit of racial equality. In doing so, BLM has become toxically associated with divisive political causes that seek revolutionary overthrow of an American system that, though flawed, has made remarkable progress and continues to do so.
United has a legal prerogative to support some issues and not others, but not a moral one. I asked if I could wear a Blue Lives Matter pin to show my solidarity with law enforcement personnel and was denied. Why is saying “Black lives matter” appropriate and saying “Blue lives matter” not appropriate? I come from a family of police officers. One died in the line of duty. He took an oath to protect and defend all people and that is exactly what he did. When law enforcement is lumped into a single category based upon the actions of outliers, we are guilty of the same type of prejudicial discrimination that have afflicted African Americans. Police officers are ministers of justice, the vast majority who bravely and courageously do their part to protect and defend the vulnerable. We should be thankful for them, not shun them as if all must atone for the sins of the few.
I fear allowing this pin and not others, especially a blue lives matter pin, will cause the very division we are trying to eliminate as a company. A lot of good people will likely get caught up in arguments that could have easily been avoided by prohibiting all pins beyond union, 9-11, military, and American flags or permitting no pins at all.
In conclusion, I see a problem in how the universal truth that Black lives matter has been commandeered by hateful and divisive organizations. I also see a problem that in permitting this message over others, United unnecessarily sows division amongst employees and does not advance us toward our shared ultimate goal of liberty and justice for all. It should either allow more pins or allow no pins at all.