Things That Matter

United Airlines’ Flight Attendants Accommodate White Man’s Racist Request Not To Sit Next To Teen Because She’s Black

Taylor Richardson, who coincidentally was featured on Teen Vogue’s “21 Under 21 to Watch” list, was flying on United Airlines from Denver Airport. The 16-year-old said she overheard a man tell the cabin crew he didn’t want to sit next to her because she is black. Richardson was mortified when the flight attendants politely accommodated his request and moved his seat. 

United Airlines eventually responded to Richardson’s account of the incident that she posted on Twitter, saying they take “claims of discrimination very seriously. ” 

In 2017, Richardson was featured in Teen Vogue as an aspiring young astronaut. The self-described “STEMinist” idolizes Mae C. Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space. The racist incident only highlights the same battles that Jemison fought still await the future leader. 

Taylor Richardson shares the horribly racist experience on Twitter.

“So yesterday while flying from Denver to Jacksonville, I had my first encounter with a white man who didn’t want to sit next to me because I was Black. Thank you @united for accommodating him,” Richardson wrote. 

Richardson elaborated on the experience in a series of tweets directed at United Airlines’ handle. 

“He was not loud just in a normal tone asked to be moved. At first, I didn’t even know why, then he was like, ‘I don’t want to sit next to her because she is black,” she said. 

Richardson acknowledged that the flight attendant’s effort to accommodate him was probably just to diffuse the situation. 

“I would like to say upfront there wasn’t any commotion. Your airline rep was not rude she was caught off guard by his comment and to not make a scene just moved him. I’m only 16 so I dare not disrespect an adult even when ignorant to the facts,” she said. 

The teenager explained that the woman then moved the man to another seat. The seat next to Richardson’s was left vacant for the remainder of the flight. 

“The airline lady was very kind and very discrete. No commotion. He didn’t do anything he got up and I enjoyed the rest of my flight heading home. I guess it could have been worse if I had made a scene. I chose to not give him my time or energy,” she said. “I decided to eat my pizza and remain calm and unbothered. Going high in low moments!”

United Airlines responds to Richardson’s account of the incident.

United Airlines issued an apology to Richardson in a private message on Twitter and a later a general statement. 

“Please know we sincerely regret that this was your experience, as we never want our customers to feel any sort of discomfort while flying and truly appreciate your understanding,” the airline told Richardson on Twitter. “We always strike to leave a good impression on our customers and want you to know we care.”

A United Airlines spokesperson told the Sun Online Travel that they take matters of discrimination seriously. 

“We immediately had an online chat with our customer when we heard about this issue and will reach out again to speak with her directly for additional information. We will also be speaking with our crew to better understand what happened,” the spokesperson said. 

This incident occurred within days of will.i.am accusing a different airline of racism.

The Black Eyed Peas artist will.i.am accused Quantas airlines of racism on Twitter. The “My Humps” singer claimed that on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney, Australia he was using noise-canceling headphones. He didn’t hear the announcement to put his items away, but when a flight attendant approached him he quickly complied. 

He said the flight attendant, “clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of color.” When the plan landed police were waiting to arrest will.i.am. 

“I’m sorry? Is callin the police on a passenger for not hearing he P.A due to wearing noise canceling headphones appropriate? If didn’t put away my laptop ‘in a rapid 2min time” I’d understand. I did comply quickly & politely, only to be greeted by police. I think I was targeted,” he said

Quantas released a statement but they did not acknowledge the use of police or mention any discrimination. 

“There was a misunderstanding on board, which seems to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise canceling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew. We’ll be following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour,” the statement said

In July, Spirit Airlines was dealt a similar issue when a black woman claimed a woman refused to sit next to her because of her race, forcing her to switch. In a world where black people continue to be systematically denigrated, incidents like this come as no surprise. 

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