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Dianne Austin
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Dianne Austin

Dianne is the co-founder of Natural Haircare News and Coils To Locs.com. She's been blogging about natural hair ever since she made the decision to break free of the creamy crack in 2012.
Dianne Austin
Follow NHCN!

Recently, I returned from a trip to New York via La Guardia Airport.  I took off my shoes, piled my items on the conveyor belt and walked through the x-ray machine so the male security checker could start his peep show.  Just when I thought that I was done with this indignity, a female security checker indicated that she was required to check my hair.

Hmmmm… I travel a few times a year and this was news to me.  I asked why and was told that the x-ray machine isn’t able to view through big hair and I was assured that the request wasn’t a new one in terms of airport security.  I suppose I could have been hiding anything in my hair: a machine gun, a machete, a couple of sticks of dynamite…

Mind you, I was not asked by Logan Airport security to pry through my big natural hair, so I had my doubts about this “rule”.  In the interest of time and not wanting a hassle, I let the security person “check” my hair which consisted of three very quick pats on the top middle and bottom of my hair.  The security guard seemed as uncomfortable as I did during the process, but she wasn’t the one suffering this indignity.  A friend who I was traveling with and who is not natural was beside herself and couldn’t believe that I had to go through this hair check.  I felt a combination of anger and disbelief welling up in me.

Since the incident, I’ve done some research and have found that searching people with big hair is indeed a TSA practice – albeit an inconsistent practice since it’s never happened to me before now. I understand the need for security checks, but this practice seems to be pre-destined to unfairly discriminate against a specific race or group who by the essence of their DNA are more inclined to have “big hair” when in it’s natural state.

Should I have resisted?  And what good would it have done really other than likely delay my flight home?

Once on the plane, we sat near another naturalista and I couldn’t help but ask her about her experience going through airport security.  The woman who was from Texas indicated that although she was not “hair frisked” before getting on the plane that we shared, she has had this experience at other airports.

It made me wonder.  Do white women with big teased hair or large buns get their hair frisked?  What about men wearing toupees, or women with wigs or people who wear turbans?  Or, are only women of color with natural hair being singled out?

I’d love to hear if anyone has had this experience and how they handled it.

Author: Dianne

Comment on this articleChanging attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural. Not sure of which products are right for your hair type? Visit our solution oriented natural hair products store.

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4 Responses to So Why Does Airport Security Need to Search My Hair?

  1. Serena says:

    Happened to me yesterday on my flight from Ohio to B’more. I passed all security checkpoints as well but got pulled over for a pat down. I didn’t sleep well at all. I’m still beside myself right now.

    • Dianne says:

      Thanks for sharing. I don’t understand this practice; especially since it is not consistently applied.

      I had an interesting “discussion” on the LinkedIn group “Naptural Roots”. A woman who is also natural indicated that she didn’t have a problem with it and that basically it was my “issue” that I had a problem with it not hers. Everyone is welcome to their opinion but I disagree with the TSA’s tactics, and quite frankly, disturbed by someone who seems to feel that others have the right to violate someone else’s rights. I agree that safety is important, but it’s not a practice that is consistently applied. I’m sure glad that our forefathers didn’t feel that injustices were someone else’s issue, or we’d still be sitting on the back of the bus and drinking out of “For Colored Only” water fountains.

      Readers can view the discussion here if interested: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Has-this-happened-you-2841171.S.273606162?qid=1cd53dd3-33d9-448a-8a96-ef15d2c8ddf8&trk=groups_most_popular-0-b-ttl&goback=%2Egmp_2841171.

  2. Katherine says:

    Very interesting story! Last year September I had my natural hair twisted. While traveling back from Copenhagen, via Amsterdam, I was “hair frisked” in Amsterdam. It had never happened before, nor since. It was surprising; and it was more important to get on the plane than challenge the process.

    • Dianne says:

      I felt the same way – which is why I didn’t challenge it. It’s frustrating because it feels like your back is against the wall. Challenge it and a process that is already fraught with red tape and delays can be made even worse by refusing to be searched. Yet this “hair frisk” procedure feels like a process that is crossing the line; especially since there does not seem to be any consistency in the process. Security gets to decide who and when they will institute this “hair frisk” procedure. When a process isn’t applied consistently and across various groups, then it can and does raise questions of equity.

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