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Southwest Airlines worker cries talking race with American Airlines CEO #News

Southwest Airlines worker cries talking race with American Airlines CEO

June 2, 2020 | 3:44pm

A black Southwest Airlines flight attendant had a heartfelt discussion on race and racism with a white passenger who she only later learned was Doug Parker, the CEO of rival American Airlines — all because she spotted him with a book on the topic.

JacqueRae Hill, 38, of Dallas, drove to work Friday morning with a “heavy heart” over George Floyd’s police-custody death in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests, she told ABC.

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But her spirits lifted during the work day when she stopped to speak with Parker — who she didn’t recognize — but was intrigued by the book he had with him, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo.

“So how is the book?” Hill told ABC she began the conversation, as she sat down next to Parker.

Parker told Hill he was halfway through the book, but it “really point[ed] out how important these conversations on race are,” Hill told ABC.

“As I began to respond the tears just start[ed] falling,” she recalled.

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“He was just like, ‘I’m so sorry, and it’s all our fault,’ ” Hill told USA Today. “We have to have these conversations [about race]. I was like, ‘I’m so sorry. But thank you. Oh my God, thank you.’ ”

Parker said in an email to other American Airlines executives Saturday that he “felt wholly inadequate” but “knew it was a special moment.”

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker
American Airlines CEO Doug ParkerAFP via Getty Images

“The best I could do was tell her that the book talks about how white people are horrible at talking about racism and that what we need are real conversations,” according to USA Today. “She agreed. I told her I was trying to learn and through tears and a mask, she said, ‘So am I.’ ”

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It wasn’t until the end of the 10-minute conversation that Parker told Hill his name and position with American Airlines.

He was flying Southwest because his airline’s flight to Panama City was booked, according to USA Today.

Hill told Parker her mother works for American, as a customer service manager at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC.

Before leaving the flight, Parker gave Hill a “thank you” note, hand-written on the back of his boarding pass.

“Thank you so much for coming back to speak with me,” says the note, shared by Hill in a now-viral Facebook post. “It was a gift from God and an inspiration to me.”

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The note included Parker’s email address, with an invitation to reach out “if you’d like to continue the conversation.”

Hill’s mother, Patti, reached out to Parker, who responded that “your daughter’s visit was a gift to me.”

“Reading a book is one thing,” he wrote. “Spending time with a kind, strong, young black woman who is hurting and trying to learn from others is another thing altogether.”

“How did we let her go to Southwest?” he joked.

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