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16-year-old shares experience after passenger's alleged racially motivated seat change request

Nov. 17, 2019
3 min read
16-year-old shares experience after passenger's alleged racially motivated seat change request
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#FlyingWhileBlack is an ongoing hashtag — and a real thing for many passengers of color.

The latest example is Taylor Richardson, a 16-year-old African-American girl, who according to her Twitter bio, is very interested — and active — in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

On Saturday, Richardson tweeted the message below after her seat mate asked a flight attendant to move him elsewhere allegedly because of the color of Richardson's skin:

Richardson says the crew member complied with the man's request.

The airline responded minutes later, asking Richardson for more information about the situation. The teen replied, saying that there "wasn't any commotion" and that the flight attendant "was not rude," but rather that the crew member seemed to be caught off guard by the situation.

To me, it's really sad that this 16-year-old was composed enough to be respectful to an adult who clearly didn't deserve it.

Related reading: It happened again: Why the TSA still can’t deal with my natural hair

That's when the Twitterverse jumped in.

Richardson demonstrated a mature response to an immature situation again and again, tweeting that she "chose to not give [the passenger her] time or energy," and that she was "going high in low moments." It was heartening to see Richardson following the example of former First Lady Michelle Obama, who told delegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, "When they go low, we go high."

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Richardson also noted concern for her safety, saying that "it could have been worse" if she had made a scene.

Related reading: TSA Body Scanners Disproportionately Target Women of Color, Report Says

This is not the first time #FlyingWhileBlack has come up. In July, Spirit Airlines passenger Tiarra Dow said she was "embarrassed and heartbroken" after a passenger refused to sit next to her, forcing her to find another seat. She was thanked by flight attendants for being a “team player,” however, Dow was unhappy that the onus to move was put on her instead of her racist seat mate.

The best way to stop this bad behavior is to take a page from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's safety campaign, "If You See Something, Say Something." Only then can we hope that incidents happening to travelers of color like Richardson and Dow will stop.

I also hope that stories like these will resonate with airlines, and that they will give proper training to flight attendants to side with travelers of color instead of racists.

Featured image by (Photo by The Points Guy)