When driving in the afternoons, I like to listen to PMS: The Petros and Money Show on AM-570, Fox Sports LA. These guys know their sports, but they talk about way more than stats and studs. Hollywood, music, hole-in-the-wall sandwich shops… whatever the topic, Petros Papadakis and Matt “Money” Smith provide entertaining – if occasionally eardrum shattering – commentary.
Yesterday, though, the hosts took their insight to new heights. Coincidently, I’m sure, Petros was not present.
Bill Plaschke, an LA Times awarding-winning sports columnist and a fixture on ESPN’s “Around The Horn,” joined Money as a guest host. During the five o’clock hour (pick it up at the 4:32 mark), they recalled a conversation from a while ago regarding the effects of Southwest’s open seating policy.
J.A. Adande, an ESPN basketball writer and fun guy to have a drink with, had told Plaschke to pay close attention the next time he flew SWA: any vacant middle seat between two African-American males would remain vacant unless a white person was forced to sit there due to a completely full flight.
Thus warned, Plaschke kept a keen watch on his next Southwest flight. Sure enough, he witnessed this phenomenon himself.
But, then, the sportswriter sat between two black men. When they looked at him with surprise he said, “It didn’t work, did it guys?! It didn’t work!”
The gentlemen laughed and admitted that, yeah, African-American dudes love Southwest Airlines because they can always count on the extra room.
Curious, I did some Googling of the words “empty seat next to black men.” I found a two-year old New York Times’ Op-Ed written by noted author John Edgar Wideman. (I had not seen this opinion piece prior to titling this blog, but I guess there aren’t that many puns regarding seats.) “The Seat Not Taken” describes his regular experience on an Amtrak northeastern route.
It’s a survey I began not because I had some specific point to prove by gathering data to support it, but because I couldn’t avoid becoming aware of an obvious, disquieting truth. Almost invariably, after I have hustled aboard early and occupied one half of a vacant double seat in the usually crowded quiet car, the empty place next to me will remain empty for the entire trip.
I hardly ever take trains. But I’ve flown Southwest plenty on numerous occasions. Next time, I really hope I don’t witness that phenomenon unfold.
Have you ever seen this racism in action? Experienced it?
Photo by: PopCultureGeek.com