On a recent flight back home, I was sitting in my usual choice of an aisle seat mostly because I don’t like to crawl over strange legs when I need to use the restroom.
An older (older than me) woman crawled over me to take the window seat.
A young man was escorted to his seat directly across from me by a flight attendant who commented on his height and asked him how old he was as he was flying as an unaccompanied minor.
He was nine-years-old and about six feet tall.
Just a little boy in a man sized body.
I could feel his embarrassment as he was singled out for his height and I’m sure has had to endure a zillion comments about it.
He was very quiet, but seemed a little scared, so I chatted with him a bit, and he was very sweet. His dad was picking him up and he would be starting school in San Diego. He began to open up and just as I suspected, he was a little boy who didn’t really know how to deal with the fact that he looked like he was in high school.
The older woman next to me said, in a very heavy southern accent, “I should get his autograph now, he’s going to be famous.”
I didn’t respond to her right away because I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt or maybe I had misinterpreted what she was alluding to, but she repeated herself loud enough for the young man to hear, and I felt that I needed to do something.
I said, “What are you saying? That because he’s tall, his only life path is basketball?”
She looked at me and said, “Well, he’s tall…” and then her voice and thought faded.
I replied loud enough for anyone to hear, “Maybe he’s going to be a doctor. Or a professor. Or an artist or a writer. Just because someone has a physical trait doesn’t mean it’s a life sentence. He can and should do whatever touches his heart.”
The woman had so much ingrained covert racism built into her that she didn’t really know what to say, but a few minutes later she told me that she thought about it and agreed with me, so then we had a pleasant rest of the flight.
Did I change her?
Probably not, but the grateful smile I received from a nine-year-old made my day.
(And did I really need to mention that he was a six foot tall African American nine-year-old child or did you figure that out for yourselves?)
And then I saw this photo of Trump serving fast food to the Clemson team.
More covert or not so covert racism. Love Reggie Bush’s tweet.