Many African American women luxuriate in various hair styles. It is an opition to wear our hair long, short, natural, relaxed or weaved. So why has hair become a security threat. More often than not, Black Women are targeted when traveling through TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Are we becoming a public specimen or villainess security risk? Really is it there warranted, or done with probable cause to body search African American women including hair? I THINK NOT.
Instead, please allow me to share an open letter addressing this particular issue.
Dear John Pistole,
It’s me, Melissa.
“Yesterday we listened to President Obama offer us his assurances about the National Security Agency. That America isn’t interested in spying on ordinary people. Which would have been a relief to hear, if I hadn’t had an up-close and personal experience with the overreach of a completely different government agency.
Turns out, it’s not the National Security Agency I need to be worried about. It’s the TSA getting all up in the business of regular folks. And I mean all up in there.
Listen, I’m no stranger to the pre-flight security screening process. It’s become a regular procedure for me thanks to my weekly flights from New Orleans to New York. And I am grateful for the diligence of the TSA in doing the tough job of keeping us all safe. But this time, as I prepared to depart from the Kentucky airport, I experienced–let’s call it a kink in that familiar routine.
There I was, having just stepped out of the body scanner, when something unusual happened. The TSA agent pulled me to the side and proceeded to examine my hair. And by “examine,” I don’t mean a simple pat-pat-pat. Oh, no. We’re talking the full-on fingers through the braids, scalp-tickling treatment.
I was sent on my way feeling a little violated and unclear about why exactly, that intrusion was necessary. Because if your $170,000 machine can see under my clothes, but can’t figure out I’m not hiding a bomb in my braids, maybe it’s time to recalibrate the machine.
Let’s be clear–I realize this is an occasional occurrence in my otherwise privileged position of getting to fly around the country for my job. And this isn’t a “stop-and-frisk,” Stand Your Ground, end-of-the-Voting-Rights-Act kind of problem. But it is one of countless microaggressions endured by black women on a daily basis.
Especially since I’m not alone among those with textured hair who’ve been singled out for the hands-on treatment by the TSA. If I didn’t know that Beyoncé flies on a private plane, I might wonder if her new short hair had anything to do with wanting to avoid her sister Solange’s experience of the TSA searching her hair last year.
Solange took it all in good stride when she joked on Twitter that she was a victim of “Discrim-FRO-nation.”
But John, I understand the TSA’s screening procedures are no laughing matter for you. And you’ve considered sensible reforms to make the TSA screening more security, and less security theater. So all I’m asking is while you’re rewriting that script, you reconsider who the TSA has been casting as potential villains. Because we can agree that there remains the need for protection from a threat.
But I’m here to tell you, you’re not going to find it in my hair.”
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