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Arlington Man Pulled Off United Airlines Flight Claims Racial Profiling

Musician Vance Gilbert said he was unfairly ejected from a plane and questioned at Logan Airport.

An Arlington musician is blasting United Airlines for what he says was racial profiling after being removed from a flight at Logan Airport and questioned by State Police about a carry-on bag and a book he was reading.

Vance Gilbert, a black man, said he was reading a book about Polish aircraft from the 1940s aboard a United Airlines flight on Aug. 14, when he started to notice shifting among flight attendants. The plane was in line for take-off at about 6:20 a.m. en route to Washington, D.C., when the pilot looped around and returned to the gate, Gilbert said.

The Arlington man, 52, said a couple of Massachusetts State Police troopers came aboard and asked him to accompany them off the plane. Once outside, the troopers asked him a series of questions about his carry-on luggage and the book he was reading, which Gilbert was then asked to retrieve from the plane.

Earlier in the flight, Gilbert said, a flight attendant had asked him to store away his fanny pack in an overhead compartment. He asked her to keep the bag nearby, as it contained his wallet and other personal items.

Those facts combined, he said, were enough to get him pulled off a flight that was delayed by more than one hour, inconveniencing the 70-80 other passengers aboard the plane.

“You can call it black paranoia, you can call it whatever you want,” said Gilbert, whose hobby is aviation. “But I know if it was any other guy reading a book about 1940s aircraft, it wouldn’t have been an issue.”

Once one of the troopers examined the book, Gilbert was quickly sent back to the plane. Still, Gilbert said, the damage was done.

“I’ve never been more humiliated,” Gilbert said. “You shake your head and you kind of laugh and cry at the same time. I’ve never experienced that.”

State Police spokesman David Procopio confirmed Gilbert's account of the event but offered no further details.

On Tuesday, Gilbert sent a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union office in Massachusetts, stating his racial profiling claim and asking for a response. The same letter was sent to United Airlines and posted on Gilbert’s blog.

An ACLU representative said the letter was received and lawyers are in the process of reviewing the claim. The representative said a response could take a couple of weeks due to the volume of complaints the statewide office receives.

United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart said the airline’s customer care team has also received the letter and is reviewing Gilbert’s complaint. “I don’t know the details and I’m not going to know more until customer care looks into it,” he added.

Hobart said he would contact Arlington Patch once he knows more.

Gilbert said he missed his connecting flight and had to rent a car to get to his final destination in Allentown, Penn., also missing half a day’s worth of work. He’s seeking reimbursement from the airline and said he is still considering legal action.

But right now, he just wants his story to be told.

“I felt violated,” he added.

Robyn Ochs October 13, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Dana, I don't know you. But I find your accusation that Vance Gilbert got himself intentionally pulled from the plane in pursuit of "an opportunity to be a victim" to be profoundly offensive, disrespectful and, frankly, bizarre. Please read Peggy McIntosh's article, "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Here's the link: http://nymbp.org/reference/WhitePrivilege.pdf .
Dana October 17, 2011 at 03:04 AM
I didn't realize that I had new pen pals. Great! I could care less how you feel Robyn. I'm no longer in liberal academia, so no, I will not read one of your posts. Skip Gates showed us what a racist he and Obama both are. Vance didn't want to miss out on all the fun and to promote his cd about racism.
Nicholas Fortuna April 20, 2012 at 04:25 AM
I thought it was usually people who looked middle eastern or were suspected to be terrorists who would be subjected to such humiliating treatment. But one of America's own kind, and a pretty well known musician to boot! I hope that this was just a case of misunderstanding, and not an actual profiling case. Nicholas - http://www.lawyers.com/New-York/New-York/Allyn-and-Fortuna-LLP-444391-f.html
Lisa Simeone April 20, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Editors, please remove the comment by "Nicholas Fortuna," who is spamming this thread by advertising his business.
Len Russ September 15, 2013 at 11:06 PM
My guess is that it was 90 percent that Vance's race was the problem, 10 percent that he was not a 100 percent standardized person. Maybe he was wearing his airplane shirt. But you shouldn't have to be a standardized nothing to be treated fairly, particularly if you are generally polite and friendly, which in my experience, he is. Those of you who think he is a radicalized black guy who hates whites should come up with a plausible explanation for some recent song lyrics of his, at the following URL: http://vancegilbert.com/index.php?page=songs&category=Old_White_Men&display=2254 the album cover: http://d1wtlopzkpoh9j.cloudfront.net/images/square/2233985.jpg The song is about some mentors of his, many years back. Vance learned well from them, he is one of the best craftsmen with the stick and tissue models they taught him about. He's also very good at persuading these models to fly well. A video with Vance and one of his mentors flying stick and tissue planes: http://youtu.be/VqBonPwe21c ---------------- I think just about everyone, black, white, or any other complexion who has grown up in the USA is a racist. At least a little bit. It's in the air we breath, almost, and it's going to take a long time to completely fade away, though obviously we've made progress. If you can't see this, you're not very good at looking within. Or you're a statistical anomaly and perhaps some kind of saint. Odds are it's the former. If you think you're not racist, try the Project Implicit test at Harvard. You'll probably be surprised. And, if you're like me, upset with yourself.

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