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Tiffany Haddish’s Turkish Shenanigans is Racism 101

And an example of how the world disrespects Black women

Rebecca Stevens A.

Rebecca Stevens A.

I woke up over a week ago to an Instagram live recording of Tiffany Haddish’s challenges while she was in transit at Istanbul airport en route to Asmara, in Eritrea.

Haddish was going to her late father’s homeland – to spend time with her sick aunt as well as obtain her Eritrean citizenship. She flew from Los Angeles to Istanbul in business class on Turkish airlines and was running late for her connecting flight to Asmara when she was rudely denied boarding.

Haddish begins the recording just after she has been denied boarding in Istanbul. She is instructed to seek assistance from a customer care representative. We see her walking, searching for one, visibly shaken by the fact that she was treated badly and was most definitely going to miss her connection. She is sweating and looks stressed.

At the customer care center, she explains her situation and asks to board the next flight to Asmara. They inform her that there is no flight the next day and that she’ll have to wait two days to board the next one heading to Asmara via Dubai. She explains she needs to get to her destination as soon as possible because she needs to see her sick aunt whom she isn’t sure will still be alive if she gets there two days later.

In a bid to find a means to get them to prioritize her needs, she tells the customer care representative that she is a well-known celebrity in America. They don’t quite seem to believe her.

The “celebrity card” does not appear to work and she ends up boarding another airline — Emirates, to get to Addis Ababa — the capital of Ethiopia. In a follow-up Instagram live video, we see her on a private jet heading to Asmara.

Haddish has returned to her usual jovial self and films the inside of the cockpit where we can see two pilots with their backs facing her. She tells us how attractive they are in her usual joking voice and then proceeds to share footage of a beautiful bouquet of red roses she received.

She ends by saying that as Black people we have to look out for each other because no one else will. It is clearly implied at this stage that one of her celebrity friends helped extricate her from the challenging situation and helped charter or charter a private airplane to get her to Asmara.

I watched Haddish’s struggles (over 12 minutes long) at Istanbul airport from start to finish despite the stress and anxiety it generated within me. I’m sure you’re asking why I’d put myself through something like that.

The thing is, seeing her suffer through racism was particularly hard to watch, but as a Black woman, I felt an obligation to stand in solidarity with her until the whole ordeal was over — the same way I feel when I have been treated this way in the past.

And interestingly enough, there are much fewer views on that Instagram live post (about 403k views) showing the racism she encountered in Istanbul airport versus the one where she is on the private jet to Asmara (1.3 million views). The first video made people very uneasy because it showed a clear example of how racism manifests itself.

As I continued watching that first Instagram live, however, I could tell that she is holding back from freaking out completely and I can tell you this because there have been many a time that I have found myself in a similar situation.

For work, I often travel in business class, but I have never been given the perks that come with a more expensive ticket. More often than not I have been declined boarding, asked if I didn’t mind if they changed me from business class to coach (with some compensation), not received the choice of the meal I prefer on the plane, and a flurry of other unpleasant things.

These experiences have often filled me with rage, but I have suppressed it deep within me because I know that if I had shown that rage, it would have been characterized as an “angry, aggressive, violent Black woman”, and that would have given them a reason to use force against me. Who knows if I would have made it out of that situation alive.

It is deeply demoralizing to see racism play out in the myriad of ways that it does.

Some of my white friends say that I should just forget about it, but what they don’t realize is that it is impossible to. From the moment I leave my home, I can encounter racism. It is not something that I can control, and that frustrates me a lot. The reason I write is that it is the only thing that I can do to fight racism. It’s the only way I keep this horrible scourge from affecting my mental health and sending me into a downward spiral.

I am optimistic however that it cannot go on forever. I have hope that my mixed-race children will live in a better world where individuals aren’t judged by the color of their skin.

People say that that day will never come, that I should raise my children to accept that they will have fewer opportunities and fewer rights in the world. I refuse to do that because I am sure that their generation will not perpetuate such an evil thing as racism. I believe that they will bring about change.

Thank you for reading my perspective.

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