Accusations of racially selective airport searches by the Transportation Security Administration have prompted officials to deem the practice discriminatory. This comes years after Solange Knowles spoke out about her own experience with airport "Discrim-FRO-nation" on Twitter but it appears as though black women are still receiving routine hair searches.
ACLU staff attorney Novella Coleman joined HuffPost Live on Monday and described how she was singled out for "subjective" and "racially discriminatory" searches by the TSA on three separate occasions. She explained:
The first time it happened to me, I was completely caught off guard. I went through the full body scanner at the airport. I turned around and looked at the screen, nothing unusual was on it. And then the TSA agent next to me said, 'Now I need to search your hair.' And then she proceeded to grab my hair and just squeeze it from top to bottom. And then she found nothing. … The two white women that I was with from work went through. Nothing happened. They weren't searched.
When Coleman pressed the TSA agent to explain why she was inspected, she received a multitude of responses. First she was told the TSA's policy is to search passengers' hair if it has extensions. Then the agent widened the policy to include extensions or "abnormalities." Then after Coleman asked again, a manager rephrased the policy once more, stating that they will search a passenger's hair if they cannot see her scalp.
Coleman, who wears her hair in dreadlocks, said that her experience with the "intrusive" searches is not unique.
"I noticed that there was a pattern among black women, particularly those with their hair in a natural style, being singled out for these discriminatory and intrusive hair searches," she told host Alyona Minkovski.
Coleman and her client Malaika Singleton, who has also spoken out about racial profiling in airport security protocols, have reached an agreement with the TSA to ensure that all passengers are treated with "respect and dignity."
Per that agreement, TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport will undergo training to emphasize racially neutral practices, and the agency will "specifically track" complaints "to assess whether a discriminatory impact may be occurring."
Learn more about accusations of racial profiling in TSA searches in the video above.
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