It’s been a year since I started this blog, and I often get asked about the inspiration behind it. I named it EbonyTravelers because I know without a doubt that representation matters to black travelers. I became a flight attendant in the late ’80s. My training class included four people of color. As the weeks went by and the last week of the course came, I innately knew that only one of us would make it of the two people of color left. As I believed, and as indicated in my graduation picture, I was the only one that made it.
It was not my dream to be a flight attendant; I had applied for a dare. Many of those who know me know that the surest way to succeed is to not believe in me. I felt sad because the other classmate who did not make it had earnestly wanted to be a flight attendant. On the other hand, I planned to do it for a year or so before I went on to a real career.
I joined the flight attendant career after an early 1980’s lawsuit in which an employee claimed racial discrimination for her natural hair. I believe that my hiring and the hiring of many hundreds of flight attendants of color came from that suit for discrimination. At my time of hire, it was not uncommon for me to be the only person of color on the flight crew.
There was no doubt in the amount of pride people of color felt in seeing me on the flight crew. I would often receive the ubiquitous head nod of affirmation, only people of color can understand. The smiles of support and looks of pride reinforced the care and concern I took in representing the company and the community of color as I walked through the airport.
However, as a person of color on the crew, I was always singled out as different. In addition, I was the purser flight attendant, the flight crew lead. The purser flight attendant is responsible for all that happens behind the cockpit door in all classes of service. That duty also entails paperwork, especially on international destinations.
In many cases, as soon as the aircraft door opens, the purser is responsible for handing off that paperwork to the agent meeting the flight. More times than not, even though I was standing at the door with the said paperwork, the agent would look past me to someone else and ask for the paperwork. That person would then point to me, and the agent would then look at me with surprise and sometimes an apology. It became a game for me to guess the reaction.
These experiences are just an example of the reasons why EbonyTravelers! Regardless of our position or accomplishment, as travelers of color, we are treated differently. Here I point to one story of the famous Oprah Winfrey going into a store and not being allowed to buy a purse she most certainly could afford. Many will disagree, but to many people of color, there is no doubt that race was an issue. I may be well-traveled, but in all my travels, my experience is as a person of color, and that is my lived experience.