A Baby, the N-Word and a Slap

The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. says that a 60-year-old white airline passenger's attack on a black toddler is as American as monster trucks, reflecting an animus toward black people that is woven through the fabric of our law, economics, health care, education, news media and culture.


The 60-year-old airline passenger’s recent attack on a toddler is as American as monster trucks, writes Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., arguing that his animus toward black people is woven through the fabric of our law, economics, health care, education, news media and culture.

… So now, Jonah has received a lesson in How Things Are. He is 19 months old.

Sitting on his mother’s lap on a recent Delta Airlines flight on approach to Atlanta, he was doing what babies tend to do on airplanes, particularly airplanes that are changing altitude. He was crying his little head off.

Shut that “[n–ger] baby” up.

Those were the alleged words of the alleged man in the next seat just before he allegedly slapped the baby with an open palm, leaving a scratch below his right eye. The alleged man, 60-year-old Joe Rickey Hundley of Hayden, Idaho, denies this sequence of events and pleaded not guilty last week to a charge of simple assault. But at least one witness corroborates the story, as told by Jonah’s mother, 33-year-old Jessica Bennett. She and her husband are white. Their adopted son is African American …

We are rightfully outraged that someone would call a baby by a racial slur and then strike him.

But it is a matter of statistical fact that Jonah, from the moment he was born, stood an excellent chance of being struck in other ways. Of being failed by his school. Of being steered into the criminal injustice system as if prison was his natural habitat. Of being denied housing. Of being denied healthcare. Of being denied loans. Of being denied work. Of being denied his very individuality …

Read Leonard Pitts Jr.’s entire piece at the Miami Herald.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.