Assuming you have flown before, you know how annoying TSA and going through security can be. But have you ever noticed its only women of color that are brought to the side to be patted down? Most are having their hair felt to see if they’re hiding something. It happens most often when women of color are wearing their big natural hair or protective styles like braids. It’s intrusive and frustrating. Is it security or are black women being profiled?
Black women have been going through this for years, being forced to undergo searches of their hair at security checkpoints. There was a complaint five years ago, and TSA pledged to improve oversight and training for its workers on hair pat-downs. It seems not much has been done. This may be because the issue isn’t the screeners but the machines themselves.
The full body scanners have become the norm across all United States airports. They are prone to false alarms specifically with women of color. TSA asked for ideas from vendors “to improve screening of headwear and hair in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.” That law bars federally funded agencies and programs from discriminating even if unintentionally based on race, color or national origin. Because of the thicker texture of hair, the machines are not able to tell whats a real threat and what’s not. The officers have to do what the machine can’t.
The TSA wouldn’t say if they ever even found a weapon in a passengers hair. The false alarms affect more than the passengers whose hair is searched. The government report from 2014 noted that patting down passengers slows security lines. It also may increase costs by requiring extra screeners.
Most black women felt like they were being singled out, while white women said they didn’t mind the searches they were just a minor annoyance. The number of complaints filed with the TSA alleging racial discrimination in hair pat-downs rose from 73 in 2017 to 105 in 2018.