The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

US Airways Says Hoodie = Hoodlum?

Which one of these guys would not be allowed to fly first class on US Airways?

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If this was your guess, you’re right.

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Black guys in hoodies can’t fly first class on US Airways.

When McCraig and Miles Warren tried to claim their first-class seats on a US Airways flight, an employee told them to first change into more appropriate attire, according to a federal discrimination lawsuit filed Wednesday.

A ticket counter employee repeatedly told the Warrens, who are both black, that their jeans, hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps violated an alleged first-class dress code. As the complaint states:

Doe employee informed plaintiffs that it was US Airways policy that everyone in first class is required to wear slacks, button up shirts and no baseball caps. Doe employee demanded plaintiffs to change from jeans into slacks, a button-up shirt and told plaintiffs to remove their baseball caps.

The Warrens reportedly headed to the restroom where Miles conferred to a white passenger, Michael Heffernan, that he was worried he’d miss his flight because of his apparent dress-code violation. So, imagine Miles’ surprise when he saw Mr. Heffernan and a friend sitting in first-class, wearing almost the exact same outfits that barred the Warrens from sitting in their seats—jeans and hoodies.

This is the first I’ve heard of a “First Class dress code,” let alone one arbitrarily applied to passengers based on race.

Of course it’s ludicrous to think that Eminem, Justin Bieber, Michael Buble, or any anonymous white guy in a hoodie and jeans would be barred from first class or required to change clothes before boarding, because white people in hoodies don’t look like hoodlums.

Of course these guys wouldn’t have been shot. Because they’re white, and white guys can wear hoodies without getting shot. Because white people will never look suspicious like Trayvon Martin.

I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on…in fact, that is what I wore yesterday…I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you.  I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me.  I won’t have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can “run my plates.”  I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get “stopped and frisked.”  I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only.  The color of my skin.  I am white.

I was born white.  It was the card I was dealt.  No choice in the matter.  Just the card handed out by the dealer. I have lived my whole life privileged. Privileged to be born without a glass ceiling. Privileged to grow up in the richest country in the world.  Privileged to never look suspicious.  I have no guilt for the color of my skin or the privilege that I have.  Remember, it was just the next card that came out of the deck.  But, I have choices.  I got choices on how I play the hand I was dealt.  I got a lot of options.  The ball is in my court. 

But a black guy in a hoodie is automatically held suspect, first class ticket notwithstanding.

Just a couple of months ago, our oldest son got his first hoodie. It quickly became of of his favorite articles of clothing. Yet I fear — I know — that he is likely to be held suspect as an African-American male wearing a hoodie, in a way that his friends will not be, for no reason other than he is black and they are white.

I don’t know which breaks my heart more as a parent. The fact that my son has to live with that reality, or that I will have to explain it to him, and try to come up with an answer when he inevitably asks me “Why?”

3 Comments

  1. There is not much that I can say to make this better. Mr J will perhaps face the same problems – being a young man of color who likes to wear a hoodie. I can only hope that society will not permit this sort of blatant and potentially deadly discrimation to be acceptable. And keep our children safe….or at least as safe as we can.

  2. These two men were flying standby on a US Air employee’s “buddy pass.” Anyone flying on company passes are held to higher dress standards in any section of the aircraft with US Air. It was incumbent upon their friend giving them the passes to use to tell them what the pass policy was before they even arrived at the airport. They (US AIr) are one of the last mainline carriers not to relax the non-rev flying policies. This is not a discrimination case. The other men were allowed to wear what they wanted because they were not flying on a free pass. I had the exact same thing happen to me in 2005 on a Delta flight. Before I worked for the airline as a flight attendant, a friend of mine was with a Comair and gave me a pass to use. I showed up to fly in a t-shirt and shorts. The ticket agent made me change into slacks and a polo/button-up shirt before I was allowed access to the aircraft – I am white. Discrimination does indeed happen, and it is abhor-able; however this was not an instance of discrimination. Had any of the other 3 young men pictured above been flying on a free, non-rev buddy pass, they too would have been told to change into business casual.

  3. It seems that these men were traveling on a buddy pass – free or highly discounted tickets given to airline employees as a benefit. When you travel on a buddy pass, you are subject to a more strict dress code than paying passengers. This complaint seems to have no basis.

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