Why I used my Delta SkyMiles to travel to Arkansas
I love collecting Delta SkyMiles for travel. By using Skymiles, I was able to purchase two $50 Premium Select seats to South Korea! My Delta AMEX gives a free companion pass every year, which is an added bonus when my husband and I travel.
Recently, though, I used my SkyMiles to prevent my brother, a Black man, from road-tripping across the deep South with a truck full of clothes and furniture.
There are some states that you don't get excited about visiting. Mississippi is #1 for me, followed closely by Arkansas. The stories my elders told me about growing up in Arkansas were horrifying. My 70-year old uncle Johnny told stories of his childhood, and how the Klan ran through his predominately Black town, burned down his school, and lynched a Black man. His father protected him for seeing the lynched man and wouldn't let him go near the school for several weeks.
That's my frame of reference for Arkansas.
Understandably, I was not excited when my brother decided to attend graduate school in Arkansas. Thankfully, that period ended (and my anxiety went down). Fast forward to earlier this year when he moved back home, and began working remotely because of Covid-19.
Unfortunately, all of his clothes and furniture were still in his apartment in Arkansas. He needed to travel back to Arkansas and move his things into storage until sometime post-Covid when he settles into a new apartment in a new state and city.
My brother insisted that he and his best friend drive to Arkansas to move his things. He argued that everything would be okay because he's made that drive many times while in graduate school. We emphasized that the racial violence towards Blacks in America is becoming worse, especially since the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Lynchings are quickly labeled as suicides. The tension as a whole is swelling because of racist acts by Kens and Karens across the county. It just isn't safe for him to be driving through the South.
My mother is a strong (and bossy) woman. But when my brother insisted on driving to Arkansas, she became quiet. Her silence let me know that she was thinking of alternatives -- "just have your friends take your things to the Goodwill--donate everything" was one suggestion. "You can start over fresh with all new clothes and furniture." I could see her (already high) blood pressure rising. Black mothers get anxiety when their sons have to road trip through the South.
My brother was annoyed. He didn't want to fly because it would cost more money. He was just starting his career and wanted to hold onto the money he did have, and save wherever possible. So while we all sat silently on the couch, I said, "I can use my SkyMiles, and the flights won't be so expensive." I was willing to use my free companion pass if it meant he wouldn't have to drive to Arkansas.
Delta's website didn't show any available companion pass seats. Instead, I was able to book two discounted seats using my Delta AMEX in conjunction with my SkyMiles. This method saved on the cost of the flight and allowed my brother and me to get in and out of Arkansas without the stress of driving 12+ hours through Southern states with trucks full of moving boxes and out-of-state tags.
While in Arkansas, things were quiet for the most part. There was also an awkward tension with a White family moving at the same time as us, and A TSA agent racially profiled me on the way back through XNA airport. Regular occurrences when you travel (or do anything) while being Black in America.
We quickly made it to Arkansas and back. Most of all, we did it all safely. Would I usually use SkyMiles to travel to Arkansas instead of purchasing a flight to, say, California for the weekend? No. Would I use all of my miles to make sure my brother was as safe as possible and survived a road-trip through the deep South? Absolutely.