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Equity is our race, culture, ethnicity, and identity blog. The blog focuses on coverage important to Illinois and its improvement. Evidence of performance of public policies and their impact will be reported and analyzed. We encourage you to engage in commenting and discussing the coverage of equity and diversity:Maureen Foertsch McKinney and Rachel Otwell curate this blog that will provide follow-up to full-length stories, links to other reports of interest, statistics, and conversations with you about the issues and stories.

Code Switch: What A Can Of Coke Has To Do With Racism

Tahera-Ahmad-FB.jpg

An international debate has churned since a Muslim chaplain from Northwestern University complained about her treatment on a United Airlines-operated flight.

I talked with University of Illinois professor Stacy Harwood, co-leader of a project on racial  microaggression,  about whether that flight attendant’s action could be considered racist.  

Tahera Ahmad protested her treatment on a United Airlines flight to Washington, D.C., last week as being humiliating and discriminatory. Ahmad, whose Facebook post about the incident went viral, had asked for a diet coke but was told by a flight attendant that it was security risk for her to have a unopened can. Yet she could see a passenger next to her had an open can of beer.

In response to the outcry, Charles Hobart, spokesman for Elk Grove Village-based United Airlines wrote in an email, “United is a company that strongly supports diversity and inclusion, and we and our partners do not discriminate against our employees or customers. The flight attendant onboard Shuttle America flight 3504 attempted several times to accommodate Ms. Ahmad's beverage request after a misunderstanding regarding a can of diet soda. The inflight crew met with Ms. Ahmad after the flight arrived in Washington to provide assistance and further discuss the matter.

"Additionally, we spoke with Ms. Ahmad [the day after the flight] to get a better understanding of what occurred and to apologize for not delivering the service our customers expect when traveling with us."

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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