TRAILBLAZERS: Left to right - Kenya Airways pilots Captains Irene Koki and Sally Ombewa, who fly between Nairobi and London
I KNOW I should be rejoicing when I see a photograph of two black women in a cockpit at the controls of a passenger jet but, for some reason, it is scaring the hell out of me.
Why, I hear you ask. This is 2017 and sistas are reaching for the skies and if you are not down with that you should wind your clock back to the 1970s, where you belong.
Funny you should say that, because the first time I ever stepped on a bus with a woman driver was in 1977. I remember it well. It was in Camden Town, north London. I had never seen a woman bus driver until that point. And I wasn’t expecting to see one when I entered through the front doors. Oh, we had seen many women conductors. Not least many Caribbean women conductors, who had come over to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s to work for the NHS or London Transport, and who would sooner give you a clip round the earhole than a bly if you were trying to bunk on the bus without paying. Oh, those women from the West Indies who went up the stairs to the top deck and down again asking for your fare ensured that everybody paid, believe me.
If it wasn’t for women like that the London buses and, I daresay, the buses in other metropolitan districts, would have gone bankrupt. Can you believe, they would even look under the seats for any delinquent rude bwoy trying to skank the bus fare, which at that time was a princely one-and-a-half pence.
Anyway, you get the picture. Women in those days were employed to collect fares rather than drive the buses, just as women were employed on the airlines to be the stewardesses, not to fly the aircraft. Remember, it was those magnificent men in their flying machines.
TOP DECK RANKIN': Dotun Adebayo
So back to Camden Town, 1977, the summer of punk and when I saw that woman bus driver, I wanted to get off and wait for the next one. And before you all start saying, for crissakes, you caveman, I should have got off the bus, because my girl ended up crashing it. No, straight up. She went into the back of a taxi. She claimed that the taxi driver deliberately backed into her when he saw it was a woman driving. At the time I thought it was laughable, why would a cabbie do that.
“To claim on the insurance,” my gyal suggested. Thinking back on it, it would have been a prima facie claim considering that, at the time, general consensus was that women couldn’t drive.
Women themselves would throw up both their arms in frustration as they dawdled behind another woman driver and exclaim “Women drivers!”, like the rest of us.
Remember, this is only a generation or so ago, and whether there was any merit in the prejudice against women driving or not is hardly my place to say, but if there was some merit, it is not clear exactly when women got the hang of it... this driving thing. At what point did they learn and stop being a liability on the streets?
The reason I ask is that my older daughter is costing me a small fortune taking driving lessons, whereas in my day you just bought your first car for £70 and thought about the lessons later – after you were caught by the coppers in a turquoise and white Morris 1000 panda car and given a producer for no insurance and no licence.
So for a geezer of my generation, fellas know how to drive instinctively. We just do it. It’s like cussing, it comes naturally and this is reinforced by the average woman’s apparent inability to change a lightbulb, let alone a fuse or to have a basic understanding of nuclear fission, even with a rustic’s intuition, and the offside rule.
It doesn’t help that we buy baby girls dollies to play with while the boys get slapped on the head when they want to play with dolls, unless it’s an action man and it’s more about the technologically advanced kit that he’s got on just for Barbie to shout “Get your kit off, I can’t see...”
Even today boys are programmed to think like they’ve got to navigate women through anything more complicated than a text message on a smartphone.
That’s why being a father to two beautiful teenage girls has turned me into a feminist 'cause I ain’t having none of that for my girls. I am not bringing them up to be dependant on any boy for any thing. I insist that they have driving licences.
No matter how much it costs me, they will never be dependant upon any boy to drive them home – it ain’t like I know what goes on when a boy drives a girl home and expects to be paid for it like he’s some Uber driver. Next they’ll take their motorcycle licences so that they don’t start swooning when the leader of the pack shows up at our door revving his Vespa and urging one of my girls to get on the back of it.
And, yes, it may sound corny, but I spent a lot of time explaining the offside rule to them so that they don’t feel inferior when some Gooner comes round to watch the football on the Sky package that I paid for.
I ain’t having it.
Like I say, I am a diehard feminist nowadays so why would I find it hard to fly with two black women at the controls? Is it because they are women. Or is it because they are black? Or is it a combination of the two? Would I happily fly if it was two white women at the controls. Or, indeed, if it were two black men?
That’s what is so messed up about racism. It completely plays with our minds and we get caught up in it and don’t know how or why, and we start mistrusting each other for nothing at all. The same way that my wife’s grandad went out of business in the early 1960s because the same black people he imported produce for were so mentally enslaved that they falsely believed Mr Patel (I kid you not... and no, this is not a slur against Asian people) sold the same produce cheaper.
Until I can get on that plane piloted by two black women without fearing for my life, I too am mentally enslaved. And so are you (if you are of the same mind).
Dotun Adebayo is Britain’s most listened-to black radio talk show host. He presents ‘Up All Night’ on BBC Radio 5 live Thursdays through Sundays on 909/693 MW, ‘The Sunday Night Special’ on BBC 94.9FM and ‘Reggae Time’ on BBC London 94.9FM on Saturday evenings. Tune in if you’re ranking!
Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.