Rapper will.i.am might have to take legal action after tweeting about racial discrimination on a Qantas flight on Friday.
The artist, who was flying from Sydney, Australia, tweeted that a flight attendant called the police after he didn’t put away his computer when preparing for take off. According to him, he was wearing noise-canceling headphones and didn’t hear the announcement but was taken to meet with officers as a result. “I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour,” he first tweeted from the plane.
While taken in for questioning, will.i.am tweeted a photo of the officer that read “This is how your greeted when you land from Brisbane to Sydney flying @qantas with a #RacistFlightattendant.” Although he was released after meeting with them, the musician named the flight attendant in question in his tweet and now faces a legal suit on behalf of Qantas airlines.
This is how your greeted when you land from Brisbane to Sydney flying @qantas with a #RacistFlightattendant named Lorraine Marshall…She sent the police after me bacause I couldn’t hear the P.A while making beats on the plane wearing noise canceling headphones… pic.twitter.com/9xT7WqTUoO— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
According to a spokesperson for Qantas, if will.i.am does not retract his statements, the airline plans to provide legal assistance for the named crew member if she decided to take the matter to court.
While some fans criticized the Black Eyed Peas frontman for calling out the flight attendant by name, he stood by his decision, claiming that the platform was made for calling attention to injustices under all circumstances.
“If I did something wrong or if I was the slightest bit rude to a FAN or a journalist during work, I would be publicly named,” he wrote on Twitter. “We are supposed to call out wrongdoings, so we can have a safer, more compassionate world.”
I’m sorry? Is callin the police on a passenger for not hearing he P.A due to wearing noise canceling headphones appropriate? If didn’t put away my laptop “in a rapid 2min time” I’d understand. I did comply quickly & politely, only to be greeted by police. I think I was targeted https://t.co/8WVIuMKXJa— will.i.am (@iamwill) November 16, 2019
Strangely enough, Australian group The Veronicas alleged that this same flight attendant removed them from a flight, too. But, will.i.am isn’t the first person to identify problematic behavior like this from airlines. In 2017, singer Jason Derulo accused American Airlines of discriminating against him following a confrontation involving multiple police officers. That same year, the NAACP released a national travel advisory against American Airlines in response to incidents of discrimination against African-American travelers.
The musician is known for taking a stand in more ways than just alleged airline discrimination — will.i.am is currently working as an executive producer on the documentary Parkland Rising which brings to light larger issues of gun violence in America. Although he has not released a statement following this recent controversy, it seems that the artist is prepared to stand his ground no matter the circumstance.
Refinery29 has reached out to both will.i.am and Qantas airlines for comment. We will update this story as we know more.
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