TSA Needed to Search My Afro For Your “Safety”


Racial profiling is alive and well in America. Not only do I continue to be pulled out of the line after going through the security screeners for a full body pat down, but yesterday, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents at the Denver International Airport felt the need to put their fingers (with gloves on) through my medium sized afro. Haven’t we already discussed ad nauseum how black women feel about being treated like pets and a petting zoo? Please do not touch our hair without asking. Not only does this seem to be an incredibly ineffective way to identify someone intent on doing harm while in the air, it’s flat out disrespectful.

I’m aware of the “behavior detection program” that TSA agents went through last year, where they were taught of certain behaviors and antics that they deem to be an aviation threat and thus necessitating a further search. My awareness to this subjective discriminatory practice has caused me to act exceedingly “normal.” I code-switch when going through airport security. Being a black woman (which stereotypically is synonymous with danger, crime and/or lower socioeconomic and educational status), I silently work hard while in line about to go through security at ensuring that people all around me can feel safe. I come prepared with all of my liquids in the correct sized ziploc bag, I take my shoes off earlier than necessary (as to not suspiciously hold up the line), and I pack my laptop in a bright colored, preppy case, and never wear a hoodie. However this code-switching routine rarely works – I’m nearly always given the pat down, while Bryan waits patiently on the other side for TSA to finish with me.

After polling some of my black friends, and learning that I’m not alone in having to go through this procedure, I’d like an explanation from TSA about how  much more protection and “safety” they’re offering the general population in searching a travelers afro. I’d like to see statistics to help me to better understand this practice. Until I hear from you (TSA), I will not allow another agent to put their hands in my hair again. Feel free to support the internal complaint I’ve filed by emailing TSA at TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov.

Do you feel safer knowing that TSA conducts a secondary afro pat down?

10 thoughts on “TSA Needed to Search My Afro For Your “Safety”

  1. My three year old was harassed last year because of his feeding tube when over-zealous TSA agents found “explosive residue”. I was unable to touch our comfort my crying toddler (because I might “contaminate him”) nor take him to the bathroom without a TSA official escorting me. We missed our flight and traumatized my son all over 4 cans of medical-issue formula. http://bakersdozenandapolloxiv.com/2013/10/02/g-tubes-and-the-tsa/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is angering! Racial profiling is EXACTLY what this is. The way a person wears their hair has nothing to do with being a terrorist or at risk of causing any kind of threat to anyone. It’s very sad that in this day and age you have to “act” a certain way as to make other people comfortable. I wonder if we as a nation will ever move forward when it comes to race.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I have had this happen to me when they needed to pat my locks. It is incredibly intrusive, and unnecessary, especially when I have just gone through a full body scan. I wonder why other folks with full and thick heads of hair aren’t particularly patted down.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh…happens to me on the regular and pisses me off every time. And it’s always at an airport where I perceive the threat level to be significantly less than my home airport in DC, so I *know* it’s for show. It is profiling. I do request that they put on fresh gloves before they go rooting all around my head and I admit that that ups the ante a bit. I explain that the gloves should protect both of us and I am not interested in having the gibblets and gravy of all the others you’ve patted down up in my head. No cooties. Ick.


  5. While I share your outrage and have myself been asked to clarify “for security reasons” whether my brown toddler son is biologically my son or adopted ?!? I do need to add that I have traveled with a white male companion whose generous head of salt and pepper hair has been searched by airport security in the US as well as abroad.


  6. Wow Angela—I had no idea!! Another thing to talk about on Monday!!

    Niki Amarantides
    Director, Center for Learning
    Seattle Pacific University
    3307 Third Ave W, Suite 214
    Seattle, WA 98119

    tel 206.281.2492
    fax 206.286.7348

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