So Why Does Airport Security Need to Search My Hair?
Latest posts by Dianne Austin (see all)
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.
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