I spotted him as soon as I got to gate 32B — sitting, unassuming, probably dangerous. Dressed like they all do: a heather gray Henley tee under a plaid J. Crew soft-wash shirt. Slim cut jeans. Chukka boots. Yankees cap. The all-encompassing air of superiority. The beard — they always have a beard.
You’re being crazy, I thought to myself. You can’t believe everything the #fakenews media tells you. Not all cisgendered white males are dangerous. Maybe I was right — they can’t all be bad. That Stranger Things kid with the hair, he seems fine enough. Then again, they all seem “fine enough.”
I checked my ticket: Group 4. Always a flyer, never the frequent. Before I could readjust the handle of my Rashida Jones Collection Away carry-on, I saw it through the corner of my eye: he got through. That son-of-a got through. Figures, they’re always in Group 1. I just hope he’s nowhere near me, I prayed to my non-denominational spiritual being.
Eye roll. 21F. Right in front of me, smiling and tapping away on his phone. Who was he texting? Another cisgendered white male? What are they talking about? Are they planning something? They’re definitely planning something; their kind always is.
I couldn’t just sit there and not do anything about the cisgendered white male on our flight. I’ve read the news, I’ve heard the hot takes: guns, mass shootings, stoking racial fear, silencing women, not keeping it in their pants, a “boys will be boys” mentality, the lack of upward mobility for POC, perpetuating stereotypes, appropriation, appointing themselves the arbiters of what and whose stories are told on television and movies, the phrase “one of the good ones,” fucking Justice League, the war on drugs, spewing vitriol because a man kneeled during the national anthem for trying to raise awareness about police brutality in his community, the lack of affordable healthcare, and attempting to create the world and humanity in their likeness… the risk was too high.
But this is America, and everyone has the right to freedom. And what is flying if not freedom?
The last passengers trickled in. I snuggled in to catch up on my favorite Riverdale recaps when…
What was that? What did he say? What did he say when he looked at his phone? “Oh my god?”
“Oh my god?”
Oh his god?
“I refuse to fly with this cisgendered white male on board!” I protested, pointing at the cisgendered white male. “I want him kicked off this flight! Kick him off! Kick him off! Kick him off!”
The cabin awoke: “Yeah! Get him off!” “I won’t fly with someone like that on board! Who knows what he might do!” “Are we getting those wafer thingies that sit on top of a coffee mug? And get that cisgendered white male off this flight!”
The cell phones came out. Sweet, every hero deserves the spotlight.
“Who? Me?” the cisgendered white male asked with his baleful, menacing eyes.
“Yeah, you. I saw you staring at your phone, talking to your god. Is that the same god that’s helped you out all these centuries? What, planning on taking Donald Glover away from the rest of us, too?”
“I was looking at the Knicks score!” he cried. “Porzingis scored 42!”
“You keep that beautiful man’s name out of your mouth, you cisgendered white male! You… Greg! Kick him off! Kick him off!”
The voices rose to a feverish pitch. “Kick him off! Kick him off!”
Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Solange: these are my peers. The ones who spoke while others’ fifth chakras were stuck. The ones who took action while the masses were still on their foam rollers. I have taken my spot amongst the Mt. Rushmore of Wokeness, and I am taking the country back. I mean, like, figuratively. I’m not Native American.
The flight attendant appeared — where has she been? Probably live tweeting la résistance.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said to the cisgendered white male. “I spoke to the pilot, and she feels…”
Cheers, the echoes of our ancestors reverberated from Groups 2 through 6. High-fives to the left. Hugs to the right. Women, men, non-binary. Muslims, Mexicans. Americans. Various races, skin colors, ethnicities: love. We did it. We fucking did it. Excelsior.
The cisgendered white male walked off, head down, privileged tail through his privileged legs. Probably to join the JetBlue flight that leaves in 20.
Maybe I was unfair… maybe, I thought. But empathy isn’t a snack I wanted to taste today — when our bad seeds aren’t seen as representatives of the whole, then Everyday Dans like this cisgendered white male will get the same respect. But that heather gray Henley tee under a plaid J. Crew soft-wash shirt. Those slim cut jeans. Chukka boots. That Yankees cap, that beard: not on my flight.
Not in these skies. Not in this America.
Jake Tapper. Hit me up, son.