Flying while black...
Flying while black... Sunshine Seeds/

Because of class struggle, Boeing has two main parts: a head and the rest of its body. The latter is mostly in Seattle; the former is now located in Chicago (the two were joined up until 2001). And so it is not surprising that the Chicago Tribune, on one side, and the Seattle Times, on the other, are closely monitoring the developments of the current 737 MAX 8 crisis. At the end of last week, both papers reported that Boeing has basically returned to its initial response to the second (and defining) crash of its badly designed (not made) aircraft, which was: black African pilots are under-trained, possibly incompetent, and very likely intellectually not up to the task of properly managing, and maybe understanding, the complicated systems of a hi-tech, 21st-century aircraft.

Seeing that there's no end in sight to the grounding of its highly profitable plane, and that major banks are downgrading the value of its stock, and that the company has no money because it was mostly spent in stock buybacks that transferred its capital to execs and speculators, cornered Boeing decided to pull out the race card. This is America. This is the card that just might work.

In this culture, blacks are frequently accused of using this card opportunistically. But whites, and particularly those with an economic motive, are not. They apparently are just saying things as they are. And so, when the race card was used by those currently representing Boeing's interests, members of the GOP and, of course, the head of that party, Trump, it was not reported as such.

The language used to blame pilots is, of course, one of white supremacy. Nothing more or less. From the Seattle Times:

At a House Aviation subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., claimed U.S. pilots would not have crashed those planes and expressed his “concerns about quality training standards in other countries.”

From the Chicago Times:

Trump administration's top aviation official, goaded by some Republican lawmakers, informed the world Wednesday that the problem isn't that Boeing put a faulty aircraft into the skies, nor that the Federal Aviation Administration's lax oversight kept it flying. The trouble, they argued, comes from lousy foreign pilots — particularly the ones on Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia's Lion Air who died struggling to pull the Max jets from death plunges.

There was a strong response against this assertion by black Africa's Ethiopian Airlines, which has a solid safety record. It knew the GOP lawmaker and Trump's administration—which nominated a white male Boeing exec to the top army position in the country—were saying one thing: You are black, you can't fly planes, case closed. Yes, an Asian airline was the first to go down. But the public became aware that Boeing designed a bad plane by way of the second crash, which happened on the Dark Continent. Remove the kaffir crash, and you basically have just an accident. Keep the second crash, and you have a serious and possibly unfixable plane mess.

But as Seattle Times' aerospace reporter Dominic Gates made clear in his article, "Ethiopian Airlines calls criticism of its pilots an effort to ‘divert public attention’ from Boeing 737 MAX flaws," what is so plainly being used as Boeing's "distraction" (which is, in essence, a reversion to racism) does not correspond with reality. Gates asked that the US "airline pilot and author Patrick Smith, a friend of someone who knew the Ethiopian captain on Flight 302 — 29-year-old Yared Getachew, who had flown with the airline for nine years" about the "controversy over whether American pilots would have handled any better the emergencies on the fatal Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights."

Smith's response:

A friend of mine — an American — worked for several years as a training captain at Ethiopian... He knew the captain of the doomed flight and spoke very highly of him, describing him as an ‘excellent pilot’ and ‘always well-prepared.... Ethiopian Airlines has a long, proud history with a perfectly respectable safety record, and its flight training academy is very well respected... My suspicion is that pretty much ANY two pilots facing the same malfunction would have met with the same result.

Broke Boeing's bet? If the race card can be a way out of a crisis that has its foundations in a design flaw, let's use it. The logic here being that racism has, historically, made the US's obvious class issues not so obvious to the bulk of white voters. The wall on the US/Mexico border would not be politically viable without white supremacy. If blaming brown people for the woes of US workers is that effective, then the same should be true for the apparent poor design of the Max.

But there is an unknown here for Boeing and its voices on the Hill. Mexicans crossing the border don't, in the imaginations of many white Americans, present a direct existential threat. Flying a badly designed plane does. My point: It's much easier to chant "build the wall" than "fly the plane."