These are troubling times. But as American Airlines CEO Doug Parker can attest, they can also offer hope -- even if that hope comes while flying on a rival airline.

Doug Parker
Doug Parker

Parker’s enlightening experience, detailed in a first-person account, happened as he sat in the back of a Southwest plane flying from Dallas to Panama City, Fla. on Monday. (“All of our seats were sold out!” Parker explained.) 

About an hour into the flight, he was joined by black flight attendant JacqueRae. (Parker didn’t provide her last name.) Motivated by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Parker wrote that he had recently resumed reading the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” by Robin DiAngelo. JacqueRae had seen Parker carry the book onto the plane and wanted to ask about it.

Parker said he told the woman that the book is about how terrible white people are at talking about racism and that what is needed are real conversations. But by then the Southwest flight attendant was already crying.  

“I told her I was trying to learn and through tears and a mask, she said, ‘So am I,’” Parker wrote.

The pair talked for about 10 minutes, and eventually Parker told JacqueRae that he is the American CEO. As it turns out, JacqueRae’s mother works for American at Washington Dulles. By the time the plane landed, Parker had already heard from JacqueRae’s mom, thanking him for comforting her daughter. 

But to Parker’s mind, it was he who should have been doing the thanking. 

“I was the one who was blessed by that conversation,” he wrote back. “I am better for it and more resolved to do what I can to make the world better for people like her (and people like me). Thank you!”

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