How One Flight Changed My Perception On Race In America

My flight was delayed about an hour. Luckily, my seat changed from 22E to 7E, the latter known as the row right behind the partition that separates business and economy – giving me ample space to stretch my legs to a locked knee. I was also on the clock, so the delay meant overtime on my next paycheck. Perfection. I sat in the infamous middle seat between two white males. Both men were suited up, obviously traveling for work. The gentleman in the aisle seat was in his late 50s and the young man in the window seat was 29. The world series was playing on the screens before us, with the Cubs and Indians tied 6 to 6. The two conversed, drank, and discussed the game the entire flight.

I’ve always been the talkative type, but tonight, I wanted to observe. Prying on the conversation while pretending to listen to music, I was invisible. What I observed was nothing new. It wasn’t anything out of this world, but it just reassured me of something that I try to convince myself isn’t prevalent anymore: a diminishing relationship between the white race and everything contrary in America.

From the moment we sat down, the older gentlemen to my left had called on the female flight attendant by waving her down similar to the way a needy manager calls on his/her employee. She quickly came to him and asked if he needed anything.

“Two beers, darling.” She came back with two canned Miller Lights and cups.

“It’s on me, fellas,” she generously offered, then asked me what I wanted to drink.

The two gentlemen spoke about sports, business, family, and the professional network they’ve acquired through work. They both have built an amazingly large business network – an admirable professional accomplishment. The connection was profound. It definitely had a lot to do with them both being along the lines of the same profession (and both Cubs enthusiasts, of course) but it also rose a few questions.

It’s obvious that race makes an impact on how easily you connect with others, but how far off are minorities with connecting to white Americans and vice versa? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that white people in America and U.S.-born minorities don’t have a connection. My concern is how difficult it is for us to connect. It’s not quite the same as connecting with someone of the same race and national background. Why is it becoming so difficult for minorities to connect with white people in America? Also, if many U.S. nationals are born and raised in larger metropolitan American cities, why are large cities still so segregated? It should be just as easy to connect with a white person as it is connecting with other minorities different from our own, but it isn’t.

An important factor stands: as a first generation Dominican-American, I am bilingual, multicultural, and not Caucasian. This is where the problem begins: being American isn’t synonymous to being Caucasian. On the contrary, born and raised minorities in America are just as American as the white ones. In fact, being a world traveler has taught me that I’m probably more American than the white person whose generations deep into the United States. People outside of America understand that white Europeans took over this land by killing deeply rooted Native Indigenous peoples (even Europeans preach this). It wasn’t until not too long ago that Americans discontinued telling the lie that Christopher Columbus discovered America – or at least recognize the truth. This inaccuracy is a horrible foundation for understanding American History, which gives white people a sense of ownership by believing their ancestors founded this great land. To think this is what Americans were taught throughout grade school is the very reason why it’s so difficult to connect.

We’re living a lie

It begins with the very teachings in American elementary schools. I was taught that black people in Africa were purchased to work in America. I don’t ever recall being taught that it was wrong. In a sense, this moral feeling was up to interpretation. The teachings at home when I would visit my white friends coincided with this idea. I don’t remember the parents of my friends sitting them down and explaining to them how this country was founded and how we’re the strongest economy; both because of murder and oppression still felt today. Interestingly enough, black and Hispanic people need to have “the talk” (if you don’t know what “the talk” is, it’s probably because you’re not a minority in America) from a very young age. It’s hard to believe many educated Americans find it difficult to accept and teach the truth: our country was founded by the genocide of nearly an entire race, and our economy was built by the sweat, blood, and tears of purchased black Africans. What’s even harder to believe is how our education system strays away from flat out saying that it was all morally wrong.

All Americans need to speak up. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement is prevalent today: it represents Black and other minorities while demanding that our society teach the truth from an adolescent age. Teaching the truth about America will help our sick society get better, at least on racial issues. Americans need to know that our country isn’t represented by white Americans. Our country is represented by everything else. It’s the minorities that make America what it is and it’s why people from all over the world hope to visit, work, study, and live here.

The land of opportunity isn’t just for Caucasian people and should never be perceived as such

In order for a mutual connection to happen naturally between white America and minorities, we need to desensitize education and start teaching our children the ugly truth about our country. By admitting that the birth of our great nation was – in many ways – morally wrong is one essential way the next American generation will see each other as a human race, and not one superior to the other. Not only will this help white people in America feel less superior to other races, but admitting fault and wrongdoing will also allow minorities in America to feel less resentment toward white people – equally as important.

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