On February 10th, British Airways – the UK’s flag carrier – made history! What did they do? Fly to a destination in record time? Put the world’s largest passenger airplane into service? Announce a revolutionary new type of aviation technology?
No. They made ‘history’ by operating the first flight with an all black crew – the first flight in which everyone involved (from ground staff and gate agents to cabin crew and pilots) was a black person.
According to some of the many, many news sites that covered this ‘story’, the ‘historic’ flight was part of the UK’s Black History Month. Not being aware that it was Black History Month, I had to double-check online.
Apparently, the UK’s Black History Month is actually October, and it’s America’s Black History Month that runs in February. (I’m not sure who decides these things.) So either British Airways got the date wrong, or more likely, the news sites wrongly assumed that Black History Month is the same in both countries.
According to a passenger on board, the pilot “announced” the news – whereupon the passengers “clapped”. This isn’t quite as surprising as it sounds, as the flight was from Barbados whose population is 92% black. It would admittedly be somewhat surprising if a flight from, say, Tokyo erupted into applause after hearing the same news.
I think you’ll agree this whole thing is very bizarre. And it would be just as bizarre with any other ethnic group (although it would obviously never happen with white people, as the airline would be instantly denounced as “white supremacists”).
Why, exactly, is having an all black crew an achievement? I don’t think anyone doubted that black people work in the airline industry. And British Airways has around 35,000 employees. So all they’ve really done is take a bunch of staff who happen to be black, and assign them to one particular flight.
In case you were wondering whether this happened by accident, and that’s why it’s news, it didn’t. A spokesman for the airline told Business Insider, “We’re proud to have supported our Be ME (Being of a Minority Ethnicity) colleague network group to organise British Airways’ first ever all Black colleague flight”.
Shuffling staff around according to ethnicity – truly something to be proud of. And will they now organise an all Indian colleague flight, or an all Chinese colleague flight? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
How I discovered the ‘story’ is also worth mentioning. It was shared on Twitter by a woman named Pippa Malmgren (who was apparently an advisor to President George W. Bush). She wrote, “It’s about time. Statistically this should be happening on a regular basis.”
Malmgren may not have realised it was a woke publicity stunt. But we can still ask: should this be happening on a regular basis? Not even close.
If we generously assume that staff on flights between London and Bridgetown are recruited half from Britain and half from Barbados, the expected proportion black is about 50%. And suppose the flight crew comprises 20 people. The chance of every one of them being black is then 0.0001. It would be like flipping a coin 20 times in a row, and getting heads every single time.
What we’re meant to be ‘celebrating’ here is essentially a racially segregated workplace. The presence of only one ethnicity is now something positive. We’ve gone from “Celebrate diversity!” to “Celebrate homogeneity!”