Demetria Poe is applauding Delta Air Lines for "taking a stance" against racism and discrimination after she was harassed by her seatmate during a recent flight from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C.
Poe told USA TODAY Wednesday that a white woman appeared to purposefully swap her American flag face mask for a Blue Lives Matter mask once realizing her seat assignment was next to Poe, a Black woman. Blue Lives Matter supports police officers and is a counter movement to Black Lives Matter, which aims to eradicate white supremacy and has organized nationwide protests in response to police violence against Black people.
"That woman was trying to entice me into an argument because there was no need for her to flip that mask in my presence," Poe said. "She didn’t do it for anyone else. It was as if she was making a statement and wanted me to know."
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Morgan Durrant, spokesperson for Delta Airlines credited the Reagan Washington National Airport team with a thoughtful response..
Poe, 25, shared her experience in a viral Facebook post Tuesday. Despite the harassment, she was pleased with how Delta handled the incident and said she "will only fly Delta" after the company stood in solidarity with her and gifted her a Black Lives Matter pin along with a seat upgrade on her return flight.
Here's what happened, as told by Poe:
'I’m sitting here in the face of racism'
Despite feeling "uncomfortable" and "fearful," Poe said she didn't engage with her neighbor. "I feel like in that situation they do want to see a Black woman get angry," Poe told USA TODAY.
But, according to Poe, the woman initiated dialogue by saying, "I support blue lives because I support our officers."
"I explained to her blue lives do not exist," Poe recalled, adding that she remained "very calm" throughout the conversation. "The life of an officer exists, but there is no such thing as a blue life and that statement is nothing but a rebuttal to the fact that BLM has been disregarded time after time," she wrote in her Facebook post.
"Us saying black lives matter don’t mean all other lives don’t matter," she said. "We are saying if all lives matter, 'Why is it justifiable for anyone to slaughter Black people?' "
Poe, a kindergarten teacher in Minnesota, said she pointed to the unjust deaths of Philando Castile and George Floyd, who were killed by Minnesota officers. But Poe said the woman continued to spew inflammatory remarks, including, "Floyd didn’t die from suffocation. He was on drugs." (Autopsy reports stated Floyd died from asphyxiation from sustained pressure after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.)
"It’s so ironic because I got on this flight to go to the 'Commitment March,' " Poe told USA TODAY, referring to the "Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks" in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28 where demonstrators demanded long-lasting change to end systemic racism.
She continued: "I'm marching for something that my grandparents had to march for, and I’m sitting here in the face of racism once again. I can’t escape it. Now I’m having someone who is trying to test my humanity and my history all in one breath."
Poe said she was "grateful" that fellow passengers came to her defense and flight attendants offered to relocate the woman.
"I felt the genuine and sincere concern the flight attendants had for me and the people around me," Poe said. "I was shocked. I was happy, but I was still fearful. Living in Minnesota, I have seen how things get blown up. I just really wanted to get off the flight."
Delta Air Lines responds in support of Poe
The company replied to Poe's viral Facebook post, writing, "When we say Black lives matter, we mean it. You matter to us, Demetria."
Poe said Delta Air Lines went above and beyond to rectify the situation by upgrading her seat on her return flight back to Minneapolis. Poe said she also received a gift bag filled with goodies, including a Black Lives Matter pin engraved with Delta Air Line's logo.
"This is a major corporation saying that Black lives matter," Poe told USA TODAY. "It was very heartwarming. I cried because I look at God using me for the movement."
On Facebook, Poe added, "It’s time and situations like these were these companies need to take a stance."
"The actions by our people in the air and on the ground are what really sets us apart as a company bringing humanity to air travel," Durrant told USA TODAY.
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Contributing: Morgan Hines
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Delta Air Lines upgrades woman harassed by 'Blue Lives Matter' flyer