Charles Thomas: Vocal tirade at Gate B-20 connects to Lima

Upon returning from a recent trip to the East Coast, I was in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport for a connecting flight to Dayton. Everything appeared normal for getting to the specified gate for the flight connection.

I arrived just in time at Gate B-20 to hear a vocal tirade taking place between four African-Americans, two males and two females. As I took my seat, I was introduced to a verbal assault of profanity and n-words that reverberated all through the gates seating. I looked at all the faces of people sitting there in fear and shock. I was embarrassed beyond words realizing that for many sitting there, this could likely be their first up close real exposure to an African-American. Threats were flying back and forth between those four people and I looked for assistance, but saw no one.

I finally realized that I had to at least try and intervene for the benefit of all those who were forced to endure this ugly process. As a former probation officer, aggressive behavior was not at all new to me, but for others in that area, it clearly was. Unfortunately, my intervention only lead to the hostility being directed toward me verbally.

I was at that point that we all have arrived at sometime during our lives when we needed to say to ourselves, “Step back and take a deep breath.” I was much beyond the angry point. Leaving my luggage, I got up to search for security and found an African-American security person. I told him what was happening at B-20, he was as angry as I was. He said to me, “Can you imagine what would have happened to us had we acted in a like manner in public when we were growing up”?

Hearing those words reminded me of something Mother Teresa said, “Everyone today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for parents. Parents have very little time for them or each other and in the home begins the disruption of ease.” As African-Americans, we like every other race of people, are not without those that cause us to hang our heads in shame.

It is those that have a means and a voice who must always be willing to speak for those that may not be willing to do so for whatever reason. This is why I write so often about local radio media ignoring the African-American community. The greatest harm you can do to anyone, by actions or deeds, is telling them that they are unimportant.

I didn’t know any of those people sitting at B-20 but what I said to them, by my actions, was simply that I see you, I see your pain and your ease and comfort are important to me. When I speak about the local radio media, I’m only seeking that same ease and comfort for the many,which is nothing more than the same comfort I attempted to provide at B-20. I often tell people to put a blindfold on and tell one of your children that they must eat dinner in the corner away from the dinner table, not having access to the desert while watching you have yours. After a year passes and you remove that blindfold, you will quickly, behaviorally , identify which child was eating in the corner, watching you have your desert nightly. Local radio is the desert you have that we do not and after being an active participant in creating the recipe that makes that pie possible, we watch instead of joining you.

Where credit is due, I will gladly give it which appears to be the case at Your Hometown Stations where diversity seems to be one of the hallmarks of their existence. So thank you Jeff and Kevin because your efforts do not go unnoticed. Local radio, however, does not reflect who we are as a community. As we see on a national level, there will always be risk when you speak up, but I think the greater risk in society occurs when you say nothing when you see things that aren’t the way they should be. We all should be willing create and maintain an inclusive culture which benefits everyone.

That won’t happen with silence and that won’t happen on it’s own. Perhaps if we can do that, we can become the real city of angels. … a band of angels.

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charles thomas thomas

Charles Thomas

Guest Column

Charles Thomas is a lifelong resident of Lima and a former juvenile probation officer. His guest column appears periodically in The Lima News. Reach him at [email protected]