A Black Woman’s Lesson in Prejudice

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My daughter has been flying alone since 2000, when we decided that the lengthy drives from Rhode Island to Tennessee and Virginia to visit her father and grandparents could easily be eclipsed by a Southwest plane ticket for a couple of hundred bucks. She was six years old for her first “unaccompanied minor” flight and she’s never looked back.

Southwest is really good to the minors. They get to board the plane first and they have a flight attendant nearby at all times. Picking up a minor from the airport is also like getting the gate codes to Fort Knox. I felt very secure in the way the handled that first flight. We knew that this would be our mode of travel after that.

September 11, 2001, forever changed us all. We were introduced to a whole new level of fear that none of us ever expected. That fear initially bonded us together. Anyone around that day has a story and we mutally shared those stories and became closer together as people and as a nation. But,that fear also bred a lot of changes in the way that we think and the way that we look at all people.

In July 2003, although nearly two years had passed the horrors of 9/11 were still fresh but we tried to get our acts together and resume a life again. It was time to bring my daughter to the airport. I had heart palpatations the entire way. Even with all the safety precautions that were all over the news I still worried.

When we got to the airport there was another little girl there who was getting ready to fly and she was really scared. It would be her first trip alone and my daughter noticed her minor tag and said, “You can sit with me. It’s going to be fine, I’ve been doing this for years.” The girl’s face lit up and they began to talk. I looked in her mother’s eyes. She was trying to be strong for her daughter but I saw the fear and we both knew what true fears existed.

All went as planned. They let the girls board first but the parents have to stay in the airport until 15 minutes after the plane takes off just in case they have to turn the plane around. The little girl’s mom and I just sit and wait. The last group of people boarded the plane but there was still 10 minutes before the flight would take off. Then we both saw something that made our hearts hit the floor.

A man, woman, and three children were running down the corridor waving their tickets. They were out of breath and obviously very late for their flight. The man was wearing a turban and everyone was in Middle Eastern traditional dress. They were running right for our flight.

I looked at the little girl’s mom and we both had the same look of fear. My first thought was to run into the plane and snatch my daughter off! I wanted to call someone, do something, anything! Then as quickly as it came the reality of the situation smacked me in the face. There was a family of people running late for a plane. Just as I would have run if I had problems parking or traffic but because of they way they looked I made an unqualified judgement.

It brought me back to the times that I’d been followed around the mall by a store detective when I made more money than everyone that works there. The time when I went to get a money order in a business suit and the teller informing me that I could get it for free if I produced my welfare card. I was no better than those people who looked at me as a woman of color and made a decision without any facts only appearance.

I’d like to have a moment of silence for everyone affected by this horrible national tragedy. Those who lost their lives and those whose lives have been forever changed… on all levels.

About the Author

Regina Foster Bartlett is a mother of two teenagers who recently married her soulmate and believes her favorite wedding gift was the addition of four stepchildren and four grandchildren! She’s a confessed tech-nerd who loves all things social media. She’s also a published freelance writer and she’s been blogging since before blogging was cool. She's the voice behind the radio broadcast and writer behind this blog. Always on the lookout for interesting stories she can be reached by emailing: regina@reginasuniverse.com or using the Contact form by clicking the link above.