Chris and I were traveling today from New York to San Francisco for work on the same flight, and we both requested an upgrade via miles. Due to a system malfunction, AA failed to properly process his credit card for the mileage upgrade, so he got skipped over in favor of two people behind him on the upgrade list. I got upgraded in advance of our flight, so I was already set up in business class. He was not happy about this.
So I set myself up in the first row of business class, and as the flight attendants shut the plane doors to complete the boarding process, I stood up to take a look back at the rest of this cabin. Lo and behold, as with nearly every other upgraded flight I am on, it’s always the exact same view: a large sea of white men gracing the entire cabin. The few exceptions are the occasional one or two white or South Asian women, and of course, me. In this case, every single person in business class was a white male except for the white woman seated next to me and myself.
We have a legacy of racial inequality that we cannot escape, as much as people want to assume that race does not affect or factor into everything. Once someone claims he is sick and tired of viewing everything through a lens of race, that’s when you know he is blinded by his own privilege and the injustices he may never have had to encounter himself. Why is that? Because it is such an extreme privilege to not have to think about one’s race in daily interactions, how we are treated, how we are looked at. At this point in my travels, I shouldn’t be that phased by this view behind me. I should accept this as the reality of travel. But it still irritates me a little bit every time, particularly with these transcontinental flights. I am a tiny part of that change, but fliers like that white woman next to me and/or Chris are not enough.