As if making it through TSA checkpoints at the airport wasn’t difficult enough, now women with natural hair are, apparently, being harassed as they travel.

Over the weekend the New York Times ran a piece about several incidents in which TSA agents singled out Black women with natural hair for “hair pat-downs.” Over the past month, Black women have been coming forward to complain that they were unfairly singled out for further screening after successfully passing through the airport’s metal detectors.

After clearing the detectors in San Antonio, Timery Shante Nance was told she was “good to go” as soon as the TSA agent could pat-down her hair.

The NY Times reports:

Ms. Nance was departing from the airport in San Antonio in late July. After she passed through the body scanner, she said, a female T.S.A. screener told her to stand facing her possessions. “You’re good to go, but first I have to pat your hair,” the officer told her, she said.

“I’m like, pat my hair? O.K., I guess,” Ms. Nance said.

But it wasn’t O.K. Ms. Nance, who had been visiting her husband at the Air Force base where he is stationed, was deeply embarrassed as other passengers stared at her, “as if I’d done something wrong.”

Nance asked why she was being searched while others, including white women with “bushy” hair were allowed through.

She was told that women with “poofy” hair and certain ponytails and buns were subject to additional searches, but she was the only one pulled aside.

Nance’s story isn’t unique. Earlier this summer, another woman, Laura Adiele, complained when a TSA agent asked to pat down her hair, even after she had cleared a TSA body scan. Adiele felt the additional screening was racially based, especially since she had passed the scan. And yet another incident happened last month when TheBlogMother, from the site What About Our Daughters, mentioned that she had been singled out multiple times for a hair pat-down by Black TSA Agents.

She writes:

In all the airports that my afropuff has strolled through, I’ve only been targeted for a afropuff patdown by Black employees.

The first time was in Washington, DC, by a male employee who appeared disgusted that I would wear my hair in its natural state. He was so unnecessarily dramatic. Eye rolling and lip smacking when I asked why my hair was being targeted and whether he made every Black woman with natural hair go through a pat down.  He dragged over an embarrassed Black woman ( who was wearing some type of polyesther ponytail-like object) to massage my scalp.  No doubt he’s still at Reagan National harassing other Black women with natural hair who make it through the metal detector. 

Predictably, the TSA denies that any of its screening procedures are ethnically or racially biased and claim that “additional screening may be required for clothing, headgear or hair where prohibited items may be hidden.”

So sisters with natural hair, beware. The TSA might find you and your curly ‘fro suspicious.

Ever had an unfortunate run-in with the TSA? Have you ever been targeted for a hair pat-down?


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