Black Woman Says She Received 'African American, African' Service Charge From American Airlines. Seriously, WTF?

Illustration for article titled Black Woman Says She Received 'African American, African' Service Charge From American Airlines. Seriously, WTF?
Screenshot: Fox 46 Charlotte

Have you ever encountered an act of racism that—even in America, the land of acts of racism—leaves you so confused you’re forced to ask, “But why though?”

Kyetra Bryant said she was the victim of that type of bewildering racism on Thanksgiving last year after she and her boyfriend had checked in with American Airlines at the Charlotte Douglas Airport in Charlotte, N.C. That weekend, she noticed a peculiar charge on her bank statement associated with the airline—an “African American, African service charge.”

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From Fox 8:

“I said hmmm, ‘African American, African service charge.’ It was just on my cell phone because I was looking at my banking app. I’m like ‘what is this?’” she explained.

Bryant contacted the airlines immediately, but said no one was helpful.

“She’s like I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Bryant said about the representative. “I’m like I have a screenshot here on two different phones and a computer, and it says it’s from American Charlotte, and I want to know why it’s listed this way?”

From November to January, she would get the runaround from the airlines and her bank. Both blaming the other for the peculiar charge.

“The bank told American directly, we don’t have anything to do with that. When you put something into your system, we charge it as the merchant charges it, and that’s it,” she said. “To this day it hasn’t changed on each of our statements.”

So basically, a Black woman ended up caught in the middle of a racist edition of Who Done It? while two corporations sing their favorite gospel hymn from the Book of Shaggy: “It wasn’t me.”

American Airlines provided Fox 46 with the following statement:

“The customer alerted American to the offensively labeled baggage fee on her bank statement in mid-December. We were disturbed by what we saw and immediately launched an investigation to understand what occurred. The baggage fee was purchased at a self-service kiosk in Charlotte. Our team members are unable to change text when processing a charge and we’ve determined the issue originated with the credit card company and bank issuer. We reached out to Mastercard who confirmed that American submitted the baggage fee information correctly during the payment process and Mastercard is conducting its own investigation.”

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The network shared the statement with Bryant, but she was hearing none of that white noise.

“There’s really no justification,” she said. “We definitely felt targeted. That’s an instance of racial bias.”

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Seriously though, what the fuck?

Regardless of which company is responsible, it looks like someone charged Bryant with being too Black on an airplane. Someone took the time and labeled the charge as an “African American, African” service charge.

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Must we check our Blackness with the rest of our luggage before boarding a plane from now on? Do I need to make sure I board my flight cocoa-butter scent-free and that my reading materials are more Mark Twain than Toni Morrison? Am I going to get charged extra if my snack collection includes Jamaican meat patties and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? What if I’m caught watching a Good Times marathon on my laptop?

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CHARGE EVEN FOR?

This shit is dumb. It’s racist and infuriating—but also very, very dumb.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

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Woke Up Dead

Something doesn’t add up.

The bottom of the screencap says: “Appears on statement as Debit Card Purchase - AMERICAN CHARLOTTE NC.”

Also, the baggage fee was purchased at an automated kiosk.

Finally, the story isn’t clear: is this an “offensively labelled baggage fee” as per the AA statement, or is it a “flying while black” fee like the author suggests? If it’s the latter, how much was it?