When I heard the news about my style icon Solange Knowles getting her 'fro frisked by Transportation Security Administration officials in Miami last week, I was immediately enraged. Here was yet another black woman, who after going through the usual invasive full-body scanning process, forced to have her hair searched like a shady duffle bag.
Yet, the singer-turned-DJ had a surprisingly lighthearted reaction to her "Discrim-FRO-nation," engaging in a Twitter game with her followers called "What did TSA find in Solange's Fro"? While I commend her for not allowing the TSA's peculiar hair pat down to damper her mood, I felt my blood start to boil just remembering my own airport security search experiences.
I returned home to South Carolina during Fourth of July weekend back in 2010 for my older brother's wedding. With my future sister-in-law's direct orders to have my natural hair styled in a half-up, half-down 'do, I miraculously made it through the sweltering heat and high-stressed nuptials with my mane intact. But I'd find myself in a hair-raising moment during my return trip when a TSA agent asked if I could "remove my bobby pins." My initial thoughts was "Who the hell does this old, white man think I am? Does he not know how many pins are securely attached to my curls?"
After giving him this look like "You should really be afraid of testing my authority," I firmly let him know that I would not be taking out the 50-something bobby pins from my hair. I could sense that he was a bit nervous as he kindly asked if I could just put them back in afterward, however, his pathetic attempt to undo my hairdo failed. After a 10-minute standoff, he ceded and I rolled my luggage towards my gate.
But I'd soon join Isis Brantley, Laura Adiele and other lesser-known African-American women whose big hair would warrant a TSA search last year while returning from my annual Christmas trip to Charleston, SC.
Stuffed from devouring full plates of baked salmon, macaroni and cheese, vegetarian dressing and blackberry cobbler, I checked in to the airport an hour early to mentally prepare for the holiday rush. And while I've become quite the pro when it comes to arranging my carry-on items (laptop, makeup bags and multiple cell phones), I wasn't prepared when a petite black woman informed me that she'd have to search my curly 'fro before even walking through the scanner.
My usual defenses went up as I asked her exactly why she needed to poke and prod my mane, but of course, she danced around the issue sounding like a TSA infomercial (while giving me this glance like "Girl, don't get me fired"). She came up empty-handed in her hair search and thanked me for cooperating as I returned her gratitude with a side-eye stare. I've never felt so violated in my entire life -- standing shoe-less among tens of fliers with my two-strand twist out turning into a tousled mess.
While I respect the TSA's regulations that ultimately are in place for my very own safety, there has to be an enlightened approach when it comes to searching a woman's hair. Let's face it, my locks are the last place they can expect to find any weapons because I'd hate to ruin hours and money spent at the hair salon.
Do you believe the TSA's hair screening procedure is racially or sexually biased?
Check out our sister site BlackVoices' tribute to Solange Knowles' amazing Afro in the slideshow below, then tell us in the comments section if you've ever experienced a hair pat down by the TSA.
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