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The Ugly Face of Discrimination

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Dr.Salah Hassanein

It is hard to imagine that in the twenty first century there is still discrimination because of race, ethnicity or in some form or another. Unfortunately discrimination still exists. And on a daily basis, few people of ethnic origin suffer because of bigots. The sad fact is that these bigots live in civilized countries. Last year, a couple of Russian soccer clubs got some excellent black players from the Cameroon. The opposing team in one game refused to play and the Cameroonian players were booed out of the stadium. The following true story happened just recently. It has a pleasant twist to see that there are companies and individuals who face discrimination head on, even if it is only one small step at a time. We must applaud British Airways for their action in this situation. 

On a British Airways flight from Johannesburg, a middle-aged well-off white South African Lady has found herself sitting next to a South African black man. She calls the cabin crew attendant over to complain about her seating. 

"What seems to be the problem Madam?" asks the attendant. "Can't you see?" she says. 

"You've sat me next to a kaffir ( the equivalent of the degrading word�nigger�). I can't possibly sit next to this human. Find me another seat!" 

"Please calm down Madam." the stewardess replies. "The flight is very full today, but I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll go and check to see if we have any seats available in club or first class." 

The woman cocks a snooty look at the outraged black man beside her, not to mention many of the surrounding passengers. A few minutes later the Stewardess returns with the good news, which she delivers to the lady, who cannot help but look at the people around her with a smug and self satisfied grin. 

"Madam, unfortunately, as I suspected, economy is full. I've spoken to the cabin services director, and business class is also full. However, we do have one seat in first class." Before the lady has a chance to answer, the stewardess continues......... "It is most extraordinary to make this kind of upgrade, however, and I have had to get special permission from the captain. But, given the circumstances, the captain felt that it is outrageous that someone be forced to sit next to such an obnoxious person." 

With that, she turns to the black man sitting next to the woman, and says..."So if you'd like to get your things, Sir, I have your seat in the first class ready for you..." 

At which point, apparently the surrounding passengers stood and gave a standing ovation while the black guy walked up to the front of the plane. 

I think British Airways deserves our deepest respect for their action in this situation.


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