Real change calls for understanding, and that can only be achieved by listening and being open to tough conversations.
JacqueRae Hill, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, is among the millions of people who are heartbroken because of the racial injustice being perpetuated in the U.S. But after a chance meeting with a stranger on a recent flight, she feels heard – and hopeful.
Following the death of George Floyd, JacqueRae boarded a flight from Dallas to Panama City with a heavy heart.
She had to force herself to smile at the passengers as they made their way onto the plane, but then one man’s book caught her eye. He was carrying Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility,” which delves into the reasons white people have a difficult time talking about racism.
When JacqueRae had a free moment, she sat down next to him in the otherwise empty row and asked about the book. That’s when he told her, “It really points out how important these conversations on race are.”
JacqueRae recounted their moving interaction in a powerful Facebook post, writing,
As I began to respond the tears just start falling. I have been so sad every day and I just want to understand and be understood so we can begin to fix it. I’m pretty sure I startled him by seemingly dumping all my emotions on him, but his reply was, ‘I’m so sorry. And it’s our fault that this is like this.’ We continued to talk and … it was everything I needed.
It wasn’t until their conversation wrapped up that JacqueRae learned her new friend was American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. As it turns out, JacqueRae’s mother, Patti Anderson, works for him as a flight attendant.
As the two parted ways, he thanked JacqueRae and handed her a handwritten note:
Thank you so much for coming back to speak with me. It was a gift from God and an inspiration to me. I am saddened that we as a society have progressed so slowly on an issue that has such a clear right vs wrong. Much of the problem is we don’t talk about it enough. Thank you for talking to me and sharing your emotion. That took courage.”
Then he expressed his appreciation for her and left his email address in case she wanted to talk more!
And he didn’t stop being an ally there! In a letter to American Airlines senior leaders, he wrote, “Please get out and talk to your teams today. Bring people together, not apart. We need caring leadership now more than ever.”
He also had a sweet exchange with JacqueRae’s mom after Patti reached out to thank him.
We can all become allies by taking the time to listen and truly understand our neighbors’ struggles. Today, we challenge you to read “White Fragility” and other books about racial injustice. Open your hearts and minds. Start respectful conversations. Then become part of the solution!
Share this story to spark more of these necessary conversations.
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