A 50- something year old white woman arrived at her seat on a crowded flight and immediately didn’t want the seat. The seat was next to a black man.
Disgusted, the woman immediately summoned the flight attendant and demanded a new seat. “I cannot sit here next to this black man.”
The fight attendant said “Let me see if I can find another seat.”
After checking, the flight attendant returned and stated “Ma’am, there are no more seats in economy, but I will check with the captain and see if there is something in first class.”
About 10 minutes went by and the flight attendant returned and stated “The captain has confirmed that there are no more seats in economy, but there is one in first class. It is our company policy to never move a person from economy to first class, but the captain agreed to allow a switch to first class.”
The attendant gestured to the black man and said, “Therefore sir, if you would so kindly retrieve your personal items, we would like to move you to the comfort of first class as the captain doesn’t want you to sit next to an unpleasant person.”
Passengers in the seats nearby began to applause while some gave a standing ovation.
[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated! If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]
This story is a dramatization. Not real, I’m pretty sure; but it nevertheless depicts something that unfortunately is very real.
My African-American readers will undoubtedly be able to relate story after story of personal experiences of racism.
Those of other minority classes can relate too; I’m quite sure.
Me, being a white male living in the US of A; not so much.
But I had two experiences that I will never forget …
* * * * *
The first was when I was in my teens; a black friend and I had just spent the day riding our bikes in Chicago. We were going to hang out at my house for awhile, but my then 50-something year old mom wasn’t at all keen on the idea of me hanging out with my black friend in our house.
I had to delicately let my friend know that we needed to hang out somewhere else. And it’s not a stretch to realize that you don’t do anything delicately as a teenager …
My second experience was years later.
I was meeting the regional VP at his home; he wanted me to review a priority project with him. We met first thing in the morning, and after discussing for some time, we decided to continue our discussion over breakfast.
We drove over to the local Denny’s restaurant. (Yes; really.)
We continued our discussion over breakfast. He picked up the check and went to the cashier to pay; I was a few feet behind him, lingering by the door, thinking about how I would proceed with the project.
That’s when I heard the cashier ask him for his driver’s license.
“To put $14 on my American Express?” he asked, as he reached for his wallet.
It was crystal clear what was going on. I was incredulous! This black man was a very successful executive …
On the way out, when I asked him (rather apologetically) what he thought of that, he matter-of-factly told me it happens all the time. Regularly. Restaurants, shopping, wherever. It is what it is, a part of life, as a black man in America.
As if he were a second class citizen.
* * * * *
How long will it take to fully realize the dream?
… that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
… that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…
The progress of change is sometimes — like the action in a dream — in slow motion.
But there is progress nonetheless. Today — in the US of A — is the second inauguration of our first African-American president … and my now 90-something year old mother voted for him.
And know hope.