Last week I was reading “With Hair Pat Downs, Complaints of Racial Bias,” in The New York Times. Writer Joe Sharkey detailed the eventful experience of a Black woman who says she was racially profiled by the Transportation Security Administration because of her natural hair.
Timery Nance, 30, said a T.S.A. officer at the San Antonio airport insisted on publicly patting down her hair after she had already gone though a full-body scan without setting off any alarm. Nance asked the screener why her hair was searched while others, including White women with bushy hair, were simply waved through.
“Is it just African-American women with natural hair who get the hair search?” she asked. The screener replied no, “but if you have a certain kind of ponytail or bun, you have to get your hair patted,” said Nance.
The Times article comes after an MSNBC interview where Laura Adiele, also Black, says a screener at the Seattle-Tacoma airport insisted on patting down her natural hair, even though her body scan had not set off an alarm either. Adiele said she thought the search had been racially motivated.
“I played the race card in this just because I looked around and didn’t see anyone else being searched in that way,” Adiele told MSNBC. “And at the end of it, I had an African-American flight attendant say that she’s had this experience and that she’s seeing it more frequently and that she thought I should complain about it.”
With so many complaints in the media (multiple women have come forward, Nance and Adiele’s stories are just the most prominent), the TSA addressed the concern. “All passengers are thoroughly screened coming through the screening checkpoint,” a spokeswoman told the New York Times. “Additional screening may be required for clothing, headgear or hair where prohibited items may be hidden.”
Hidden? Really? This is nuts. Opting to wear your hair as God intended is not a security threat (or a political statement) and should not be treated as such. I know the TSA is trying to protect citizens by any means necessary, hoping if they check everything, no matter how ridiculous, they’ll catch everything. But, hair? Really?
I thought my outlook would be considered universal common sense, I mean, unless you work for the TSA. But then I stumbled across an article on The Atlanta Post. “It might be hard to imagine, a Black woman sneaking a razor onto a plane… but this is exactly how terrorists think,” wrote Alexis Garrett Stodghill in “Black Woman Has Hair Searched by TSA, Claims Racial Profiling.” She added, “If we want the protection from terrorism that we intensely desire, the least we can do as citizens is make it easy for the TSA to protect us on our own shores. The constant whining from barely inconvenienced citizens might make entertaining news, but it won’t be so funny if lax safety procedures lead to another 9/11. Let’s fight the real enemy, not the guardians at our own gates.”