Airplane Madness: Man Slaps Black Toddler, Tells Mom To “Shut That N****R” Baby Up” (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Joe Rickey Hundley, the 60-year-old man accused of slapping a black baby in his face during an airplane flight, surrendered to federal agents and appeared in federal court today. Details of his plea and bond release are at the end of this post.

Let me be very damn clear: Homeland Security would have had to pull me off Joe Rickey Hundley, a 60-year-old man accused of slapping a baby in his face after demanding his mother, “shut that nigger baby up” as their Delta flight descended into Atlanta.

Yup, you read that right: dude slapped a baby. A complete stranger. On a public airplane. And called that baby a nigger. Out loud. While that child lay in his mother’s arms, no doubt crying because of the change in air pressure in the cabin. Which is what babies tend to do when their ears hurt.

Even more disturbing? Only one person—Todd Wooten, who was seated 12 rows ahead—seems to have come to the defense of Jessica Bennett, 33, and her 19-month-old son, Jonah, in the Feb. 8 incident. Wooten told investigating FBI Agent Daron Cheney that he heard “derogatory language coming from the rear of the aircraft” and went to see what was going on; he arrived just in time to see Hundley “strike” the baby with an open hand—a hit Bennett said left a scratch under her child’s eye and has since made him fear strangers. Bennett also told The Smoking Gun that Hundley “reeked of alcohol,” and that he was “stumbling around wasted” after consuming several double vodkas during the flight.

Hundley, president of an aircraft parts manufacturer based in Idaho, was charged with simple assault in federal court in Atlanta, and faces a maximum of one year in prison if convicted. His attorney, Marcia Shein, told the Star Tribune that Hundley is pleading not guilty to the charge; Hundley told the FBI agent that he neither hit nor called the baby a racial slur,  but he admitted that he did ask Bennett to quiet her child.

Hundley, who in 2007 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault in Virginia after drunk fighting with his girlfriend,since has been suspended from his position at Unitech Composites and Structures of Hayden, Idaho. Al Haase, president and CEO of AGC Aerospace and Defense, the parent company of Hundley’s firm, said in a statement on the company’s website that the allegations against Hundley “are disturbing and are contradictory to our values.” Hundley, he added, was suspended in accordance to his company’s “personal conduct policy,” and would remain off the job “pending investigation.”

I need to know just what the hell they’re putting in the water around here that grown men think it is okay, in 2013, to slap black babies and call them niggers. Because please believe, this is feeling a little too damn common around these parts. Remember the guy who brutally punched, stomped, cursed and called a young, black Army reservist mom all kinds of niggers and bitches after she politely checked him for nearly hitting her 7-year-old daughter in the face with a door as he rushed out of a Cracker Barrel here in Georgia? Or the angry white guy who repeatedly slapped a crying 2-year-old in a Wal-mart in Stone Mountain, Georgia, after warning the child’s mother that if she didn’t shut up the little girl, he would?

Ish is real for black babies out here in these streets.

I came to this story from my friend Stacey Patton, an author, journalist and founder of the anti-child violence website, Spare The Kids, who, along with a mass of black moms, made clear in her FB post’s thread that she was absolutely livid that this man thought it his right to slap little Jonah. But Stacey inspired us to think more deeply about the incident when she related it to the deaths of black children—Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin—hurt and killed for no other reason than… being.

The persistent assault on and devaluation of black childhood is so rife. What this thread shows is that WE are willing to kill for our children. But the fact that this old pilgrim was not charged speaks volumes. White people can slap our babies as if they are insensate. They can shoot our boys for playing loud music. This is some plantation/Jim Crow madness.

We parents of color, Stacey added, would bode well to stop hitting our own black children, too, to help dispel the mentality that says, “well, those black people slap their own babies and beat the hell out of them, so I guess the rest of the world can do it too.”

We’ve got to demonstrate to our children that we can create a safe place for them in a society that fundamentally hates them. Our children need to know what it means to be protected. They should never have to normalize or expect violence.

I couldn’t agree with her more. And I can’t help but to think that none of these children and their mothers would have been physically and verbally assaulted if their men were there. Because, really, hitting women and babies and shooting teens in the middle of arguments is some low, cowardly shit that you do when your privilege starts feeling really good to you and it makes you think you’re 10 feet taller than you really are. I’m not suggesting for a second that mothers are weak. I am saying, though, that we are vulnerable—especially when others think our men/fathers/protectors aren’t around.

This is also true for the white parents of black children (Jonah’s parents are white; they adopted their son when he was an infant), who, no doubt, catch all kinds of hell from every doggone body—white people who question why they didn’t just adopt their own and black people who do the same, arguing that they couldn’t possibly love/educate/instill culture in a black child being raised in America. One of these days I’ll collect all the foul, racist crap people email to the MyBrownBaby account when they stumble on our post, “Why White People Adopt Black Children.” Some mornings it feels like I stumbled into a Klan rally, I promise you this.

In the meantime, what can we do for baby Jonah and his mother? We could start by signing Stacey’s petition, “Send Joe Rickey Hundley To Prison,” on Change.org. The petition calls for the U.S. District Court of Atlanta, led by U.S. Chief Judge Julie E. Carnes, to charge Hundley with a hate crime for using a racial epithet when he slapped little Jonah, and to ship him to prison to “send a strong message that says it is a serious crime to assaut a child.” Stacey’s petition also asks Delta Airlines president Edward Bastian to ban Hundley from flying Delta Airlines, and to put his name on a national flying registry so that “no other children are put in harm’s way by being seated next to him.”

This is the very least that the law and Delta can do to Joe Rickey Hundley, if only to send the powerful message that in 2013, we can no longer let grown men spit racial epithets at and slap black babies, toddlers, children and teens and their mothers and let it slide like we’re still living in the segregated South. Newsflash: black folk actually sit anywhere they want to on airplanes now, dear—not just in the back.

UPDATE: Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, surrendered to federal agents in Idaho on Tuesday to answer to charges that he slapped a toddler on a Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight. His bond hearing was held at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel H. Williams of Georgia, who appeared via video. Hundley pled not guilty and was released by the magistrate on a $10,000 unsecured bond. As conditions of his release, Hundley cannot drink alcohol or possess firearms, must surrender his passport and cannot travel outside of Idaho, eastern Washington state or the northern district of Georgia, where the case will be tried.

In the meantime, the attorney who represents the man who slapped the baby on the airplane shortly after demanding the child’s mother “shut that nigger baby up” says she is receiving hate mail. Marcia Shein insists, though, that the public should refrain from rushing to judgement because “there’s background information people don’t know about” the case and her client. Shein also insists that Hundley is not a racist. Of course, Shein has her work cut out for her. According to the attorney representing the family, multiple witnesses say they saw Hundley racially abuse and slap the baby—including a federal air marshal.

RELATED POSTS:

1.  Who Gonna Check Me, Boo? The Hazards of Putting ‘Em In Their Place
2. Videotaped Beatings and Child Abuse Handbook Show Why Hitting Kids Is Dead Wrong
3. Spanking, Time-Outs and the Soul Train Line: Getting To the Discipline That Works For Us
4. Behind Jet Magazine’s Jordan Davis Cover: A Courageous Stand For Justice

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

30 Comments

  1. Just hearing that some grow ass man slapped ANY child makes my blood boil. It couldn not have been me cuz that man would have been tge hospital

  2. No words….I would have been right there with you. Homeland security would have had to pull me off of him. Hell nawl.

  3. Just reading the his lawyer’s statements make me sick.

  4. Beware all minorities, this is the knid of person that permeates the NRA. The supporter of so-called “survivalists”, which is another name for racists. Militia Groups up from 109 in 2008, to over 1000 in 2012. Who knows what is is today. 2nd amendment is an excuse to arm these folks. Incident is the minute tip of the hatred iceberg. Beware. Read this regularly to inform yourself http://www.splcenter.org/

    • Okay so I’m curious these are the types of people that the NRA has right? So what color are Killer Mike, Whoopi Goldberg, Karl Malone and James Earl Jones? Now I am also wondering if THESE HATE FILLED PEOPLE ARE SO BAD! Why is that All these Gangs. The Bloods, Crips, Vice lords, Disciples, Rollin 20’s, 30’s, 40’s ETC ETC ETC. Why is that it is Okay for them to have guns and shoot at everyone in site because they don’t know how to use a gun. But you train people how to use them and they are now racist.
      So Back to this story I am just curious why is it that only 1 person came forward to say yes he did this.. ANd that 1 person happened to be a person of color. Todd Wooten. So now wait the alleged victim then says he was trunk smelling of booze. But tox screen show he had .02% Hmmm Could she have been lying? You know free trips are golden. The airline will refund her ticket and give her a free round trip anywhere she wants to go. Just because she raised a stink. For something I am sure the cabin cameras caught. One last thing. This man had really did this. ITs a federal crime. He would still be locked up. You all think that whitey is the haters in life when really its people like you that instill hate upon everyone you meet. How many slaves have you know? I MEAN REAL SLAVES. How many Slave Owners? Did you have to sit in the back of the bus or drink from a different fountain. Were you not aloud in a restaurant recently? How about college. You know I didn’t know that there was a united Honkey College fund.. Or the University of whitey. But their are these things for blacks. You know the funny thing I am a person of color. And people like you Bill make me sick…

  5. What a sad sad day when a grown man hits a toddler, if I was the mom, I would be arrested after i beat his ass.

  6. Slapping a child whether you know them or not is repulsive in it’s self but this fool right here! NO! I can’t even begin to express how angry this makes me.

  7. I see this issue is on racism. Isn’t the nmae of this website racist? Mybrownbaby.com? Would it be ok if there was a website called mywhiteybaby.com? There is BET (BlackEnterTainment) on TV, is it ok to have a TV station called WET (WhiteEnterTainment)? Many rap songs have black people yelling the N-word, but if a white person says it…OMG! I have heard black people call each other the N-word many times, even in public. Why is ok to call each other that N-word, but only if your of the same race? I guess there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered before we can fully understand why racism still exists. I hope we can all just get along and respect each other.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Mike:

      This site has been around for five years now, and I promised myself that I would never again answer to this stupid question or logic. If you’re completely clueless about white privilege and why African American mothers might want to create a space where they can talk about raising black children in America, a two line explanation in this comment section will do nothing to help you with that kind of ignorance. Do yourself a favor and go read something else.

    • It would seem that you have a bigger problem with the name of this site than with a GROWN MAN striking a toddler and calling him a n*****….

      I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but it’s fairly obvious what your opinion of race is.

      I do have a question, though. Does Southwest let you wear your robes in the cabin, or do you have to check them?

    • Mike the last line of your comment is “hopeful,” but in order to do that you have to be willing (or make an attempt) to truly understand other cultures and their experiences. Sweeping racism under the rug doesn’t make atrocities of the past disappear nor does it help us have healthy dialogues about race issues in the present.

      As an adult you know when something is right or wrong. If I saw a white person using derogatory language to another white person I would not think it was alright for me to follow suit. As a person of color who never uses the N-word, I can’t speak for other black people on why they use it. There are rationales for this, but again, it takes going deeper to learn the history of why people do what they do. But, as individuals with our own minds we should be able to make intelligent choices about what is right to do and say to and around people of other races that is not dependent on what you see others do.

  8. Interview with Mr. Neely Fuller Jr.

    Author of:

    The United Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept
    a textbook/workbook for though, speech and/or action for victims of racism (white supremacy)

    and

    The United Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept
    A Compensatory Counter-Racist Codified Word Guide (an addition to the first book.)

  9. This and then some. I also agree so much with Stacey. Yes we have to protect our children from the violence inflicted on them by the hands of others, and we also have to look at what happens to them in our own homes and streets. They need to know that there is a place where they can feel safe.

  10. This guy’s actions is a poster-child example of what’s driving higher black unemployment numbers, health disparities, and other seemingly unexplainable gaps between whites and blacks. He slipped up and let the world see his clan affiliation. NAACP and other affirmative action groups only forced hard-core racists to put a suit and tie on their beliefs…Most whites over a certain age (65 or so) remember the “good ole days” and they aren’t too happy about letting them go.

  11. oh, wait, guess how many blacks get hired at Unitech after this – the numbers will skyrocket as they bend over backwards to show the world that this guy doesn’t represent their valus. But he DOES.

  12. What you said in the first paragraph — yes, in EVERY way…and I’m not even a mother. But for d*mn sure, I’m an aunt, a godmother, a cousin. Whoa. It would be in-SANE and he’d be lucky if he got off that plane alive. Yes, alive. That would be the last time he was flying. I’ve signed the petition — and every woman who is a mother, including women of color who see this white couple with this child of color, should do the same. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. And no parent or child deserves this!

  13. IF THIS DONT PISS OFF ANY ADULT AND IF THE ADULTS ON THAT PLANE WASN’T IN AN UPROAR, SOMETHING IS SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL. THIS MAN DESERVES EVERY CHARGE POSSIBLE- IF YOU STAND FOR CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN OF ANY COLOR YOU STAND FOR ANYTHING EVIL AND IF YOU DONT AGREE YOU’RE LYING TO YOURSELF AND IN DENIAL.

  14. First off, I absolutely love My Brown Baby! I have been visiting your site since my son was born a year ago, and I believe this is my first time commenting…

    As a mother of a little black boy, I was absolutely incensed to hear about this piece of racist crap feeling big enough and bad enough to hit another little black boy without impunity, and RIGHT IN FRONT OF the child’s mother. I too feel as though he wouldn’t have done that if the baby’s father was there. As you said, not because the mothers of black babies are weak (we can’t afford to be weak in a racist, white supremacist society), but a lot of men are cowards and seek out who they consider to be easy prey. There are so many glaring issues in this. From the man’s obvious reaction to a black baby being in his space, to the hatred he demonstrated towards the baby’s mother, to the fact that he was not arrested as soon as possible, and to the fact that, if there was a US Marshall on that plane, he should have detained that racist monster while the plane was still in the air. Of course, because of his white male privilege and his money, he is only being charged with simple assault. We all know, if that would have been a black man hitting a white child midflight, or a Muslim man hitting ANYONE midflight, he would have been messed up on site and buried underneath a prison somewhere. This is life in so called “post racial America,” where individuals with a warped sense of power and control continue to continuously devalue the lives of minorities…

    We need to keep vigilant, especially when our black and brown boys and girls continue to face the threat of violence everyday from all sides and , apparently, at all times. We live in a society where our children can’t walk in a neighborhood, go to a convenience store, hang out in a park, or ride on a plane without their lives being destroyed and devalued. Thanks for the posting, and I will be signing that petition asap!

  15. This is disgusting. It’s unfortunate that our children, particularly out boys, are seen as such a threat to others. That baby wasn’t doing anything TONS of other babies have done, and Ill bet that man never slapped any other babies.

  16. Mike Z. And Shane: maybe you would take information more easily from a white man? Why not visit Tim Wise’s website and start educating yourselves about racism, and especially (since self-interest is such a powerful motivator) the ways in which racism harms white people as well as injures people of color? Trolling sites like this to display ignorant comments only serves to make you and white people more generally look fearful and weak. Well, you have 30-50 years before you will live in an America where white skin color is in the minority. Get busy. Unless you work for change, don’t think you’ll like minority status when it’s your turn.

  17. Why isn’t he being charged with child abuse?

  18. I signed the petition and totally co-sign this blog post as well. I am shocked that anyone would defend a man who slapped a child no matter the race. We have definitely fallen back as humans when this is seen as okay.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      No, the story is real. The Onion did a parody story assuming the voice of the man who has been accused of slapping the child. Frankly, I didn’t find the mock story funny, though I do tend to find The Onion humorous on occasion. This was a little too much for my tastes.

  19. It doesn’t matter if it was a White man that slapped a White child ( that was not his own) or a Black man that slapped a Black child( that was not his own). What matters is this man slapped a child that was not his own to lay his hands on in my opinion the comment that he made just adds to the fire but it is not the deciding factor. It is never okay to put your hands on someone else’s child.

  20. It is hard to believe that a complete stranger thought that he had the right to hit a toddler in a public place. I know that there would have been another arrest that day, cause no one would have been able to pull me off him. How dare he? He should be banned from flying on airlines, until he learns how to behave whilst flying.

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