These are just a few of the recent flight safety incidents that have shocked fliers across the country. Most of the scrutiny has focused on Boeing, a billion-dollar multinational corporation that has already come under fire.
But if you ask a conservative, these scary incidents weren’t caused by aircraft CEOs putting profits over safety — they happened because too many unqualified people of color have been hired for the sake of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
DEI practices attempt to correct inequalities and diversify a company’s workforce. In the wake of Boeing incidents, Republicans have gone all in on a racist, baseless theory that minority groups ostensibly benefiting from DEI are being put in charge of airline safety, with disastrous results.
Earlier this month, during an Alaska Airlines flight, a panel blew out of the airplane, leading the crew to make an emergency landing. The Federal Aviation Administration immediately ordered that the affected model of aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 9, be grounded. Luckily, no one was seriously injured or killed during the incident.
Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X (formerly known as Twitter), blamed the incident on the company’s diversity programs, without any evidence.
Musk — also the head of Tesla, a car company that has been plagued with safety issues —said, “Do you want to fly in an airplane where they prioritized DEI hiring over your safety? That is actually happening.”
There is no known connection between the door plug incident and diversity programs at the company.
The following week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was delayed in Switzerland returning from Davos after his Boeing jet broke down. Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) made a bizarre jab about the incident.
“Maybe take your electric car instead of your gas-guzzling DEI jet next time,” Collins posted on X.
It is impossible to drive from Switzerland to the United States.
Then this week, after a wheel came off of a Boeing airplane this week in Atlanta, Donald Trump Jr. said, without evidence, “I’m sure this has nothing to do with mandated Diversity Equity and Inclusion practices in the airline industry!!!”
Some conservatives were more explicit in their complaints about DEI. “I’m sorry,” co-founder of far-right pressure group Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk said on his show on Tuesday. “If I see a Black pilot, I’m going to be like, ‘Boy, I hope he’s qualified.’”
Approximately 2% of commercial airline pilots are Black,per a 2022 report.
While the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA investigate what went wrong with the Alaska Airlines flight, Boeing employees have blamed a culture that prioritizes profit and speed over quality and safety.
Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, met with U.S. senators on Wednesday about the Alaska Airlines incident. Afterward, he told a group of reporters that the company flies safe planes.
“We don’t put airplanes in the air that we don’t have 100% confidence in,” he said. “I’m here today in the spirit of transparency.”
For conservative culture warriors, the new push to blame DEI for airline safety mishaps is simply the rebranding of the “wokeness” and critical race theory-related moral panics that dominated 2021 and 2022, after 2020′s Black Lives Matter protests spread across the country.
Conservatives insinuated that through CRT, a high-level academic concept, misguided liberals were making white children feel bad about America’s racist past. Too much wokeness, they said, made it so that white people cannot make public mistakes. Their new claim is more explicit: that incompetent diversity hires are going to get people killed.
Though less-official DEI efforts have been a mainstay of work culture for decades, the concept exploded after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. CEOs across industries like tech and media vowed to make an effort to increase their awareness around racial equity in the workplace, and many did that by releasing statements and implementing new DEI strategies.
It was short-lived.
According to CNBC, tech companies like Google and Meta have started slashing their DEI budgets and laying off employees working on DEI initiatives. Republican-led state legislatures have gone on the offensive, writing bills intended to remove DEI programs from public institutions and universities.
But that hasn’t stopped right-wing figures from claiming that planes are about to start falling out of the sky because of efforts to increase inclusion in the workplace.
And it’s not the first time conservatives have used DEI as a boogeyman to blame an accident on the supposed incompetence of minority groups.
Last June, when Titan, a submersible owned by exploration company OceanGate, suffered a “catastrophic implosion” with five people aboard, conservatives were quick to blame “wokeness” as the culprit. The sub was attempting to visit the wreck of the Titanic on the ocean floor.