Every once in a while, a story pops up on our news feed that provides an opportunity to discuss, with nuance, seemingly mundane ways in which white privilege manifests itself in the lives of Black people.
Meet Camille Henderson.
As reported by The Grio, Henderson,”was on her way back to the Bay Area from Atlanta on Feb. 3 when Delta flight attendants asked her to give (up) her seat after the two white women sitting next to her in the same row complained about not having enough room.”
“They felt like they were ticketed first-class seats, but they couldn’t provide the tickets,” Henderson told ABC 7 News.
So, basically, these broke-a** Karens weren’t in first class and their coach-caucasity led them to complain for over an hour about not having enough room until someone did something to accommodate their entitled white nonsense. A flight attendant’s answer was to ask the Black woman sitting next to them to move to the back of the plane.
Henderson played a recording for ABC 7 where someone can be heard asking Henderson, “Are you flying by yourself?”
Henderson, who was seated in row 15, was told “There’s a seat back there in aisle 34. It’s an aisle seat.” Row 34 is the last row in the very back.
Henderson was asked to give up her seat toward the front and sit in the back of the plane.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: This is clearly some Rosa Parks sh**.
Well, not really.
No one appears to have demanded that Henderson move her seat. It sounded more like someone presented her with an option, and she took it. She could have said no. It’s not a Rosa Parks thing unless the Black woman refuses to move. However, history and the lived experiences of Black people often remind us that whiny white people tend to get their way, and Black people causing issues are often seen as aggressive as opposed to just being annoying passengers who are salty because they’re can’t ride first class.
“I don’t want to make it a race thing, but instead of asking the two white women that were seated next to me [to move], in an attempt to accommodate them, they basically made me have to move,” she said. “I just don’t know why I had to move because that was the seat that I paid for; that was my assigned seat.”
OK, but, again, sis’ didn’t “have to move.” She didn’t have to do anything. She could have said, “No, I’d rather stay in the seat I paid for,” and there’s not much a flight attendant could have done about that. Still, that does kind of beg the question: Why TF is an attendant asking anyone to move at all?
Look: These white women wanted to be in first class, but they weren’t. Everyone in that section would probably have paid extra for room and comfort if it was worth it to them to spend that much money to fly. But an attendant is only out here playing mile-high musical chairs for these two women, why? Because they wouldn’t stop crying about not getting to sit where they want?
These women are adults—tell them to shut the f*** up.
So, besides it being a story about crying Karens who got what they wanted, this is a story about white privilege because, if Henderson were white, she might have been just as annoyed by being asked to move, but she wouldn’t have had to wonder if her Blackness had anything to do with it. And when it comes to white authority and Black bodies (even if it’s just perceived authority) requests often sound like demands and Black people are at least left to ponder if they’re being discriminated against.
“As I’m walking back there, it’s just humiliating,” Henderson said. “It’s like having the entire flight look at you and asking what’s going on.”
Henderson said she tried to file a complaint with the airline, but she was told nothing could be done and that she was asked, “How were you humiliated for them to ask you to go to another seat?”
“I just want them to acknowledge that they made me feel powerless, and they can’t do that to customers moving forward,” Henderson said. “Me, as a Black woman, I was displaced to make two white women comfortable. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Delta did address the incident in a statement that indicated its management is still struggling to understand what the problem is.
“We are looking into this situation to better understand what happened. Delta has no tolerance for discrimination in any form and these allegations run counter to our deeply-held values of respecting and honoring the diversity of our customers.”
Sometimes, you really just have to be Black to understand the issue.