Backtalk with Barrington Irving

that some young African Americans see sports or music as the only way out of poverty?
It’s a tremendous problem, because it limits a young person’s vision and it limits their creativity. That’s why it’s important that we have programs in the community that expose them to different things. Take them out of the community and show them around. There’s more than just what’s in your neighborhood.

Why do you think so few African Americans are pursuing careers in aviation?
How many of our students in the inner city are exposed to flying on a private jet? How many of their [relatives] own an airplane and fly them around during the weekends? It’s an industry that our people aren’t exposed to. When I first started to get into flying, some of my friends were like, “Black people don’t fly.” We fear what we don’t understand. A lot of times in an inner-city community, there’s an airport sitting in the backyard. They don’t realize how many millions of dollars float right through their backyard. They don’t realize how many jobs are created. A lot of black people, if they travel, they’re driving. And if they do fly, they just get on the plane, pray for safety, and get off the plane. We don’t take the time to understand it.

Do you think five to 10 years from now there will be more minorities in this industry?
All I can tell you is that I try to do my part. The aviation industry also needs young people to be pilots, air traffic controllers, and so forth. Many minorities aren’t aware of the opportunity and aren’t taking advantage of it. The doors are opening up. Now is the time to get our people involved.

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