Thomas Witts

World Changer / Aviator / Mentor

GROWING UP: I am from Upland, CA where I graduated from Upland HS. I then attended Cal State LA and got a degree in Aviation.

CURRENT GIG: I am currently an airline pilot with Alaska Airlines, before that I was with Sky West. I love my job, it’s the best in the world. I also run a program for young boys from Compton who want to be pilots. We mentor them, teach them about flying and how to be a citizen. The program is called Sky Team Professional Pilot Development Program.

EXPERIENCES WITH RACE: Growing up, the racism that affected me most was from black people. I grew up in the suburbs and I didn’t know what color was. I was friends with everyone, there was a lot of diversity. I got a great education but my black friends accused me of being too white. I didn’t usually get along with other black kids because their idea of blackness wasn’t me. I didn’t talk like them or act like them, according to them. I wasn’t accepted by them. So I assimilated into other ethnic circles. It affected and made me feel bad that people that looked like me didn’t accept me.

In other countries, people expect me to act in a certain way. They talk to me in urban slang and expected me to respond like that instead of talking with me without referencing 50 cent and Kayne. It is a bit different in other countries.  While in Rome, I heard things like, “You are black like monkey shit”. I usually couldn’t get tables and felt it was more subtle until that quote. I never let it keep me down or affect me too much because I had goals and I was going to achieve them regardless.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I don’t believe in the word can’t. I just maybe haven’t developed my ability to do it yet. When I mentor kids, I hear it a lot. I want them to learn that they can over come the mental barrier, anyone can. I am an instrument of God using it to breakdown those mental barriers.

Photographed by Renee McMahon