Alberta Wilson
4 min readJan 27, 2024

Random Acts of Racism: One Love

Is your everyday living interrupted by hostile strangers?

I loved the idea of traveling long before my first actual trip. My maiden voyage in 1957 on Eastern Airlines was a happy confirmation of this eternal love. I was traveling from Idlewild Airport, baptized JFK in 1963, to Atlanta, Georgia with my younger brother, Barry and Aunt Lessie, our mom’s aunt. The flight attendants — stewards and hostesses back then — were solicitous, helpful, informative, and nice. They chatted us up and gave us wings. Aunt Lessie had bought us big red name buttons and pinned them on our chests, so the flight staff knew as we boarded to call us “Barry” and “Louise” (there was no “Alberta” pin). I cannot remember one other passenger being on that flight.

My initiation to flying made a lasting impression and I mourn the loss of stewards and hostesses of old. I don’t mind the appellation change; it’s the evolution of the métier that I have observed over decades of air travel that has saddened me. Maybe it’s merely due to the ubiquity of travel. I digress. The outright acts of racism I experienced haven’t been at the hands of flight staff, but of fellow passengers.

South of the Border

I have been blessed to travel the globe and very often, in the best conditions. A friend invited me to Cabo San Lucas, which before this escapade was only a place name to me. We traveled down as a group and stayed in fully equipped luxury villas in a compound with a pool. We leased vans, visited the beaches, and ate touristy meals on the piers. At the end of the brief and enjoyable high-end vacation, my return flight to New York was solo. We all left together for the airport and separated when I had to find my departure gate. A few minutes after boarding, I noticed my fellow passenger settling in. The woman decided to start a conversation with me. We were seated in first class. She explained that she had been vacationing for two weeks and asked about the length of my stay. “Four days,” I responded. The following is a direct quote of what this stranger said to me, “Who did you have to f — k?” This question being not only rude but both sexist and racist as well, deserved no answer but did elicit a dirty look from me. We flew to JFK in silence.

No problem

How excited I was for a chance to visit Jamaica! It was only going to be an overnight stay on the way to Libreville, Gabon. I was meeting a friend who was arriving that morning to visit Cedella Booker, Bob Marley’s mother…