Amber J. Phillips, writer and host of the podcast "The Black Joy Mixtape," experienced an airline nightmare that went from bad to worse when American Airlines sided against her for seemingly no reason.
"The cops were called on me for flying while fat & Black," she explains.
Phillips flew from Durham, North Carolina to Washington, D.C., and tweeted about the experience with photographic evidence.
This was my view tonight because I made a white woman uncomfortable and held her accountable by AT LEAST making sure I documented her outrageous behavior of trying to humiliate me on a flight. @AmericanAir put my life and the life of other passagers in danger tonight. pic.twitter.com/yf9iyuubFq— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
This white woman literally spent the entire 45 minute flight making an active scene bc my arm was touching hers. Loudly asking if I could "move over" on a plane so small everyone's carryon bags had to be valeted. It was awful!— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
The white woman SIMPLY COULD NOT HANDLE having an arm so close to hers, even though that's just how it works on airplanes.
When I decided to take a picture & video to document the incident, I deplaned, picked up my bag, and boarded the shuttle. While I'm on the shuttle, this woman LIED that I assaulted her and the @AmericanAir flight attendant called the cops to remove me from the shuttle bus. pic.twitter.com/czMyxkQVQ7— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
She called the cops on Phillips to exact her revenge, subjecting Phillips to humiliating treatment with help from the flight attendant.
This WW & the @AmericanAir FA tried to humiliate me. The FA yelled into the shuttle that she was calling the cops based on nothing but the lies of this WW. I'm so grateful I knw to ask questions like "Am I being detained?" to speak the same launage as the cops to get home safe.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
Also! My hair was patted down by @TSA before boarding the @AmericanAir flight that led to the cops being called on me because MY ARM WAS TOO CLOSE TO A WHITE WOMAN.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
A horror movie and inside look to flying while Black as someone who has to fly ALL THE TIME.
The next day, Phillips added some more details.
Now that I'm awake I want to add that I was going to let this white woman get away with how she treated me. I decide to take the picture & video after we landed and the pilot announced that we were 25 minutes early. This was a super short flight from North Carolina to DCA.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
When this WW sat back in her seat during landing after leaning forward on her seat tray for most of the flight, she was able to sit back comfortably without touching me. That was my final straw. She made the CHOICE to act out and make me feel like shit when she didn't have to.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
She knew she was wrong. She knew I was going to hold her accountable with my pictures and that's when she decided to pair up with the white @AmericanAir flight attendant to call the cops on me after I was already off the plane and on the shuttle to go home.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
Phillips had no intention of hurting her seat neighbor, but that didn't stop the lady from making a scene.
While waiting on the shuttle another passager ask me if I was ok. I said no and that I was afraid. I asked the woman "Will you take my number? And if something happens to me, please record it and send it to me." because my phone was dying and I didn't want to die without proof.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
The stakes are devastatingly high when you're Black and forced to interact with law enforcement.
Can you imagine? Trying to find eyes of compassion to give someone the courage to document you in case you harm or murdered by the police?!— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
When the cop came, a white man, I watched as he spent serval minutes speaking with the 2 WW. He then walked over to me and asked me to step off the shuttle. I did.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
The cop was quick to anger.
He asked for my ID. As I looking for my ID, I asked if he asked for the other woman's ID. He aggressively responded to me by saying "I'm not dealing with your abuse! Give me your ID!" I handed him my passport and he yanked it out of my hand.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
I'm sure that my Blackness and PASSPORT threw him for a loop because he asked if I had another form of ID. I said no. He asked if I lived in Maryland. I said "No. I live in Washington, DC. This is my home."— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
I then asked, "Would you like to know what happened?" Aggressive again he said "NO! I'm investigating this as an assault!" I very calmly said "Wow, ok." I backed up and made sure my hands were visible which upset the officer as well and he called in for an additional cop, yall!!!— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
The 2nd cop came who was w/ the gate manager. And the gate manager, a kind Black woman, and the eyes of the countless Black folks who work on the Tarmac were my saving grace. They were eyes and I knew I needed eyes. The gate manager was the first person to ask me "What happened?"— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
I told her. But even the 2nd cop decided to talk to me about my "behavior" with the previous cop instead of the incident. The cop told me that they were required to speak w/ the WW from the plane first because she was the "victim" despite the FACT no crimes were committed.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
As the 2nd cop started to lecture me like a child, I asked her "Am I being detained?" She said "No." I asked, "Am I free to go?" She said "You have to wait bc you can't just walk off the tarmac. It's dangerous." GO FIGURE! We're all in danger bc of an @americanair FA and this WW.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
But that's how I got home. A gate manager named Anita and asking the right questions. And the fact that I did NOTHING wrong. I left a report with the gate manager. The police never asked me for a statement. Only my ID.— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
Ugh. I'm so sad. When I realized I only had 11% battery left on my phone, I can honestly say I was deeply terrified. I used the last 2% of my battery to call my friend and colleague to tell her where I was and what to do if something happened to me. @AmericanAir— amber j. phillips (@AmberJPhillips) April 27, 2018
"As a black woman, my life is always at risk, especially when facing policies that are in place to discriminate. Fatness is not the problem — the problem is the discriminatory and racist way we treat fat people in this country. I also need people to know that the intersections of my identity as a fat, black woman are what led to the racist interactions with the white passenger and the police," Phillips explained to Yahoo Lifestyle.
Phillips explains that the white woman's insistence on getting law enforcement involved in the simple act of accidental arm-touching was in order to portray her as an aggressor.
"This situation is why white people should stop calling the police on black people who are simply existing, especially in a country that, right now, is filled with unapologetic hatred," she says. "I’m telling my story because I deserve to exist."