Leigh Robbins — The Racist Exemplar

Leigh Robbins, a 35-year-old housewife, genuinely believes that she was fulfilling her maternal duties. The truly sickening aspect of her story, which delayed a flight for more than twelve hours, isn’t so much her fear of brown-skinned people, which is quite evident in Robbins’s attempt to get her sons off a plane that, lo and behold, happened to have seven Iraqis on board. It was the way in which Robbins justified her racism with these quotes:

“How can you overreact when it’s your children?”

“I’m very sorry, but I’d do anything to protect my kids.”

Robbins’s excuses are very much grounded in the hermetic seal of the nuclear family archetype. The horror from six years ago has so successfully indoctrinated its way into public consciousness that it is no longer a matter of remembering (“Never forget!” read many of the signs here in New York), but a matter of fulfilling one’s basic domestic duties.

9/11 is no longer the smoking gun. Hollywood is — to some extent. It is no longer a matter of accessing one’s general sense of reality. It is, as Robbins observed, a matter of comparative metaphor. “It was very frightening, like something out of a movie,” said Robbins.

There are important questions here which must be asked: Why didn’t the plane’s passengers stick up for the Iraqi men? They were questioned by American Airlines, as if they were the villains. Why was Robbins’s ostensible safety valued over that of the Iraqi men? Does Robbins truly comprehend the callous fury she has unearthed?

Never mind their ethnicity. Why in America were seven men — who served their country — considered lesser than one racist homemaker, who served nothing more than graham crackers and juice?


  1. “”Never forget!” read many of the signs here in New York”

    Where exactly are these signs? Maybe I just haven’t noticed these signs because I’m not looking for them. Give me some examples besides the MTA signs to “say something if you see something”.

    Maybe I just don’t like us New Yorkers being portrayed as fear mongers, when, at least to me, it feels like most people have figured out a way to simply get on with the business of living. 9/11 usually comes up when I travel outside NY, and it’s always this awkward pause when someone asks me how I continue to live in NYC. What is the right answer? Because I have balls of steel? No, I don’t believe that that is the answer people want, but the truth- that I don’t feel much more fear than I did before 9/11, at least none that I register consciously- is probably not the answer that people outside NYC want either. If *I* don’t have xenophobic fears, then what is their excuse? Not to come off as a smug New Yorker, but 9/11 has proven to be a very convenient excuse for all sorts of bad behavior.

  2. Re the sign. There are about three of them in my neighborhood. Then again, I might be noticing these because I’ve only been in New York for three months and we never had any “Never forget!” signs in San Francisco. Just being observational, sir. And your thoughts on fear will require some clarification in a future post. Never forget: I’m now a New Yorker too.

  3. Well, it was when I was in San Francisco last week when a couple I just met brought up 9/11 with me and basically asked me how I could live in NYC. I guess we should also remember that the anniversary is just around the corner, which brings out more of the blatant “never forget” sentiments.

    And contrary to my balls of steel statement, I am not a sir.

  4. 5redpandas: While I apologize for the gender confusion and appreciate your sentiments, speaking as a proud hick in New York, I must ask how a sign can be less blatant than a silly castigation along the lines of what you describe!

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