Yesterday, a friend posted on his Facebook wall that he was perplexed as he watched the viral United Airlines video of Dr. David Dao being dragged off of his flight due to an overbooking. He was not confused about whether the amount of force was legal or appropriate. He was not confused about the pacified reactions of the passengers on the plane. He had one question in particular.

"Why didn't he just Comply?"

Minorities in America know this question well. Black people, who would rather not be stopped and frisked; Mexicans, who don't want to be subjected to endless questions about whether or not they belong here; and inmates at correctional facilities, (falsely, it would seem) believe that they have the right to not be assaulted by corrections officers.


The question of compliance comes in many forms, but it always stems from a mistaken belief that people in positions of lesser power or people of lesser importance need to "comply," that they do not, in fact, have the right to resist. The foremost example being this statement, uttered after every high-profile police shooting:

"He should've just done what the police officer said, right?"

The problem with the question is the assumed superiority complex inherent in it. Asking why someone didn't comply is the same as saying that they should have, or they had to, and this logic is often applied to mismatched situations.

For instance, you have the legal right to refuse a police officer wanting to search your car without a warrant.

You have the right to refuse arrest if you're not being charged with a crime. You have the right to refuse entry to your home without a warrant. This is true of all Americans.


The reason this comes off this way is that we hardly ever ask these questions of white Americans. We never ask why a white, middle- aged mom is being belligerent in a Best Buy, and we never think that the penalty for theft is death unless the victim is a person of color.

These narratives are in place to make us sympathetic to power and complicit in the inexcusable actions thereof. Asking, "Why didn't he comply?" is really a way of saying, "It's the passenger's fault that he got beat up." With these profound misunderstandings between cultures, and a seemingly deliberate effort to eschew responsibility for actions from the perpetrators of those actions themselves, it's hard to see a resolution to these issues at any time in the near future.

It's hard to see a situation in which people won't think of the actions of the aggressor as excused because of the fallibility of the victim. But if your question is still, "Why didn't the passenger comply when he was told what to do?", I do have a clear answer for you.

Because you wouldn't have to.