United Airlines Employee Accused of Calling Actress Cacilie Hughes a 'Shining Monkey'

Illustration for article titled United Airlines Employee Accused of Calling Actress Cacilie Hughes a 'Shining Monkey'
Photo: David Zalubowski (AP Photo)

A United Airlines employee has been charged with disorderly conduct after verbally abusing actress and philanthropist Cacilie Hughes.


The New York Times reports that the employee in question, Carmella Davano, repeatedly called Hughes a “monkey” and a “shining monkey” during the February incident at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

A United Airlines employee accused of directing racial slurs at a customer has been charged in Texas with disorderly conduct, according to court documents.

The charge, a misdemeanor, was filed in Municipal Court for Houston in March, a month after the Houston Police Department issued the employee, Carmella Davano, a citation for profane and abusive language in a public place. She was accused of repeatedly calling Cacilie Hughes, a black woman and United customer, “a monkey” and “a shining monkey.”

As to what preceded it, Hughes told the New York Times it all started over a refund code.

“I walked up to the woman, Carmella, and said, ‘Hi, do you have a refund code available?’ and she started yelling at me, calling me a monkey...I was humiliated, I was crying and I was the only black woman in the area.”

In her efforts to diffuse the situation, Hughes asked another United employee to call the police. When that employee refused to do so, she called the police herself. Upon the arrival of the Houston Police Department, two witnesses backed up Hughes’ story and stated that they heard Davano berate Hughes with racial slurs.

In pursuing this matter legally, Hughes has secured the services of national civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand, who are best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.


Hughes provided the following statement to The Root:

“I’m still in shock. I can’t believe this happened. I was traveling home from a speaking engagement in Michigan where I made it my mission to empower other women. I finally landed at home in Texas and a United Airlines employee named Carmella publicly humiliated me and called me degrading racial slurs for no reason. Tears streamed down my face as she humiliated me calling me a ‘monkey,’ said I have a ‘monkey face,’ and called me a ‘shining monkey.’ I had never heard the term ‘shining monkey’ before in my life. When I looked it up, I read that it is an old-fashioned version of the ‘n-word.’ I was afraid and I asked United Airline employees to call the police, but they refused. I am thankful that other passengers stood up for me. Without them I would have been completely alone.”


In a statement, United wrote, “We have withheld the employee from service since the night of the incident pending an internal investigation. Upon conclusion of the investigation, we will take any and all appropriate corrective action up to and including termination.”

“Unfortunately, the racism experienced by Cacilie was not an isolated incident with United Airlines, but part of a companywide pattern of racial discrimination,” attorneys Crump and Rand wrote in a joint statement. “We are going to fight to enforce Cacilie Hughes’ civil rights, to ensure that United Airlines eliminates its practice of racial discrimination, and to ensure the ongoing criminal prosecution of United Airline’s racist employee Carmella.”

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.


Why don’t racists ever make any sense and their insults so infantile? What in the White Hell is a “Shining Monkey”? Seriously. I need answers to this American cryptic euphemism.