TSA hair pat-downs draw ire of black women

(King5.com )
August 17, 2011|By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman | The Baltimore Sun

What is wrong with the TSA? First it was patting down toddlers and feeling up grandmothers in diapers, but now its agents are searching black women's hair.

According to this New York Times article, agents of the Transportation Security Administration have been giving some black women with natural hair a second look in the form of a hair pat-down.

Apparently there's a hair-scare in the air.

Really, TSA? As a black woman I can tell you right now that there is no way we are going to hide explosives in our hair. It would totally ruin the style and we are not having any of that. (On the other hand, who ever thought someone would put a bomb in their underwear. Pause. Discuss.)

TSA maintains that it does not profile passengers, but the article notes that some black women feel targeted because of their "natural" hair styles. Both of the women who complained, including Laura Adiele of Seattle (pictured),  said they had already gone through a screening. What I wonder is if there's some logistical reason that a full-body scan would locate a bomb strapped to your leg beneath your clothes but wouldn't see it in your hair?

Seriously, though, this smacks of a policy that hasn't been thought out very well. I don't believe it's racist or insensitive, but it is mighty close to ridiculous. Is it no different than the rules that allow TSA agents to check headcoverings? Well, hats, berets and turbans actually do conceal, so I'm not sure hair falls into the same category.

There are certainly some hairstyles that look like they could hide a stick of dynamite, a grenade, an AK-47 and possibly a small team of commandos, but those are the exception. Once again, we're left to rely on the discretion of TSA's employees, who I believe are generally trying to do the best job they can following the policies that have been set by the agency.

I've had a body pat-down at the airport and while it did feel mildly invasive, I tolerated it because I needed to get where I was going. Those who get the hair pat-down will probably do the same. But they will wonder if it's a hair too close to being singled out because you're different.

 

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