A Black woman shared her experience in being deeply mistreated while a United Airlines employee hurled racist slurs in her direction, calling her a “monkey” and a “shining monkey,” after a recent flight.
Everything transpired on February 26 when Cacilie Hughes, a 31-year-old actress and co-founder of the mentoring group Big Sister Little Sister, returned to her hometown of Houston, Texas, after a speaking engagement in Michigan.
In March a month after the alleged incident, Carmella Davano, the employee in question, was charged with disorderly conduct for using profane and abusive language in a public space, according to The New York Times. Due to state law the incident accounts as a misdemeanor.
As Hughes approached the gate in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, she said she came across Carmella Davano, who was for a reason none other racism, deeply bothered by Hughes’ mere existence as she waited for her luggage in the terminal.
Hughes said her day spiraled into an emotional free fall after she approached Davano for answers regarding a refund code.
“I walked up to the woman, Carmella, and said, ‘Hi, do you have a refund code available?’ and she started yelling at me, calling me a monkey,” Hughes said in an interview with the Times on Monday. “I was humiliated, I was crying and I was the only black woman in the area.”
Hughes said she asked another employee in the vicinity to call the police but after they refused she ended up calling the authorities herself.
After officers arrived at the scene, they affirmed Hughes by confirming that they heard Davano verbally accost Hughes with racist slurs.
“We have withheld the employee from service since the night of the incident pending an internal investigation. Upon conclusion of the investigation, we will take any and all appropriate corrective action up to and including termination,” a statement from the airline reads.
But Hughes’ lawyer, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump says the airline has categorically struggled with interacting with its diverse network of passengers. Crump, argued that United had a pattern of failing “to train employees to interact with minority customers.”
Optics for the airline have been troublesome for a while, especially when it comes to the treatment of members of marginalized communities. In April 2017, an Asian man was dragged off of a United flight after he refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight. Weeks later he settled with the airline for an undisclosed sum. Last year, a Nigerian woman asserted that she was the victim of racial profiling after she was removed from a flight due to a white passengers’ request who claimed he was agitated by her smell.
At this point the incidents tallied up from #flyingwhileBlack are just as numerous as white women calling the cops on Black people for no apparent reason. However, it must be noted that this is one of the first instances in which an airline employee has faced some sort of disciplinary action in exchange for the racism, bigotry, and hatred they so freely dished out.