United Kingdom

Black Southwest flight attendant has conversation about race with American Airlines CEO Doug Parker

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant has shared how a passenger she had an emotional conversation with about racial tensions turned out to be the CEO of rival American Airlines.

Jacquerae Hill, 38, headed to work in Dallas, Texas Friday with a 'heavy heart' following the killing of African American man George Floyd last Monday.

But Hill – who is black – left feeling more hopeful that positive changes could be made after noticing Doug Parker – who is white – reading White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism.

Southwest flight attendant Jacquerae Hill, 38, was pleasantly surprised to find a passenger whom she had an emotional conversation about race, turned out to be the CEO of American Airlines Doug Parker

They got talking after Hill noticed he was reading White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism. Parker is pictured holding the book, right

But then she noticed Parker holding a book that had been on her own reading list.

'I was so happy to see that book in his grasp that I knew after I finished my duties I was going to make a point to ask him about it. I go sit next to him as he was sitting in a row all by himself (That was God),' Hill explained. 'I said Hey How are you? I see your are reading that book .. So how is it? He replies oh I'm half way through it's really good. It really points out how important these conversations on race are.'

Hill wrote in the Facebook post that as soon as she began to respond 'the tears just start falling'.

'I have been so sad every day and I just want to understand and be understood so we can begin to fix it,' she said in the social media post.

'I'm pretty sure I startled him by seemingly dumping all my emotions on him but his reply was 'I'm so sorry. And it's our fault that this is like this'.'

Hill said they continued to talk and the discussion 'was everything I needed'.

'I was happy (even tho I was crying), Hill explained.

Hill had no idea who Parker was until their chat wrapped up.

After opening up to him about her prayer in the car on the way to work and how she felt god had answered it by creating the opportunity for her to have this conversation, Parker revealed his identity.

'As our conversation came to an end he asks me my name,' Hill continued. 'And then he said well I'm Doug Parker the CEO of American Airlines.

'I told him my mother works for him in DC and then I reached over and gave him a BIG HUG ! I HAD TO!! (yes we were both masked) I thanked him for being open and allowing this conversation to happen because I just needed to hear it and I walked off.'

In the note Parker explains that a black friend of his recommended the reading

He signed off by thanking her for the talk, sharing his email address and passing on a greeting to her mother

ABC reported Parker was on the Southwest flight because an AA flight to Panama was sold out.

Hill was then surprised that as Parker left the flight he give her a handwritten note. She thanked him and then asked for a picture together.

In the image that has been widely shared online, he is seen clutching the book written by Robin DiAngelo.

In the letter Parker said: 'Thank you so much for coming back to speak with me. It was a gift from God and an inspiration to me. I am saddened that we as a society have progressed so slowly on an issue that has such a clear right versus wrong. Much of the problem is we don't talk about it enough.' 

Parker later told AA executives in an email that he felt 'wholly inadequate'. 

'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,' Parker wrote. 'She agreed. I told her I was trying to learn and through tears and a mask, she said, 'So am I.'' 

Doug Parker (left) was on the flight because there were no seats to Panama on AA. Hill is pictured, right

'There are so many different ways to affect change in the world. I stand with anyone who wants to make a difference no matter if it is how I would do it or not. Hill told her followers.

She added: 'LETS TALK !! Doug Parker said that the premise of the book is that we need to have these conversations so here I am. My heart is open and my ears are open as well.' 

Hill added to ABC News: 'We are not so different in what we want out of life. All we both wanted in that moment was peace and to be understood.' 

Hill's mother later reached out to her boss and thanked him for raising her daughter's spirits.

Parker responded: '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.'

He also joked: 'How did we let her go to Southwest?' 

Hill's mother Patti Anderson thanked her boss for the conversation he had with her daughter

Parker responded (left): 'Your daughter's visit was a gift to me' and joked: 'How did we let her go to Southwest?' 'Reading a book is one thing,' he wrote (right). 'Spending time with a kind, strong, young black woman who is hurting and trying to learn from others is another thing altogether'

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