Henry Amador-Batten, 52, caught the attention of many when, last May, United Airlines falsely accused him of “inappropriately touching his son.”
According to the New York Daily News, Amador-Batten was traveling on a United Airlines flight to his North Carolina home with his 5-year-old son by his side.
He recalled a male flight attendant giving him an “odd glance” mid-flight, though he thought nothing of it at the time.
As customers deplaned, however, Amador-Batten was approached by armed authorities who accused the father of laying hands “near the genitals” of his child, Benjamin.
“There was a complaint made in flight that your hand was seen too close to your son’s genitals,” police told Amador-Batten.
Amador-Batten insisted the pair were simply sleeping on one another, as families and plane mates are known to do. Their positioning, to Amador-Batten, seemed anything but nefarious. He told Daily News:
“Benjamin lays his head on the upper part of my shoulder and wraps his left arm around my arm, and my hand will naturally fall on his lap. He had his great grandmother’s blue blanket on him and my hand would have been on top of that blanket. That’s all anyone could possibly have seen.”
Irate, shocked, and offended, Amador-Batten filed a police complaint against the flight attendant whom he suspected made the accusation.
United issued an apology a week later.
An emailed statement to ABC 11 read:
“Our customers should always be treated with utmost respect. We have followed up with the customers directly and we apologized for the situation.”
But that apology barely cut it for the terrified father. He told ABC:
“I was scared of what might happen to my family. I was scared that the next step was that I would lose my son.”
And he couldn’t seem to nail down a reason why he would be targeted. Now, nearly four months later, Amador-Batten has an idea.
He recently opened up to People, arguing he was targeted because of his racial background.
Amador-Batten explained the difficulties of navigating through the world as a half-Puerto Rican and half-Spanish man, often the victim of targeted discrimination and, in some cases, false accusations of molestation:
“I was nearly always targeted by security both in the U.S. and in the countries I was entering. I’m assuming that a well-dressed Hispanic man flying out of Miami was easily suspected of being in the drug business. I missed flights, had luggage basically torn apart. I had tubes of toothpaste squeezed out and even hems on my jacket and pants ripped open.”
He speculated that extra attention may have been on him during that infamous flight because of his Hispanic background:
“We can’t know what the flight attendant’s motives, perceptions, or intentions were. Although both Ben and I are Hispanic, he is lighter than I. Did the attendant see an older Hispanic man traveling with a little white boy? I can’t imagine he could have but who knows?”
Interestingly, he admits he hasn’t faced the same discrimination for his sexuality:
“I’m a 52-year-old man who has never had to fight because I’m gay. I’ve never been accused of anything, never been fired from a job, or lost a home.”
United Airlines may have lost two customers, but thankfully, this father hasn’t lost his son.