Laura Adiele wasn’t expecting any trouble when she put her hair up, packed her bags, and headed for Sea-Tac Airport to catch a flight to Texas.
She was quite surprised when she was pulled out of the security line after having gone through the Advance Imaging system and told she needed a pat-down.
“When I first heard her say, ‘We’re going to have to pat you down,’ I thought she was talking about my body. I was turning around and putting my arms out and she said, ‘no, we’re going to have to examine your hair,’ and I said, ‘no, we’re not going to do that today and you’re going to have to get security or your supervisor,’” said Adiele.
Adiele claims she looked around, saw plenty of other women with “big hair, ponytails” who weren’t being searched, and it made her mad.
She felt it was discrimination, that she as a black woman with an afro tucked up into a curly bun, was being selected for hand-screening when women of other races weren’t.
She had nothing to hide but just didn’t want strangers feeling her hair.
“It’s just totally a violation of my personal space and my biggest question is if I’m going through a full body X-ray what more do you need to find, after that?” Adiele said.
The Advanced Imaging isn’t an X-ray and should have shown any object, metal or not.
Not wanting to miss her flight she finally relented.
“They put the gloves on and now they’re really just digging around in my hair and I’m like, arrgg! Why is this happening?” said Adiele.
We couldn’t find any specific mention on the TSA website about how travelers should wear their hair, or what to expect hair-wise when going through airport searches.
A spokesperson points out there are very specific descriptions of “head-coverings” and the agency makes it very clear that any such coverings that raise concerns among security agents may be subject to further examination.
Adiele says the agent who searched her described the policy in more blunt terms.
“The supervisor shows up and she says, ‘It’s our policy that we examine anything that poofs from the body,’ and I’m looking around me at all these women with bigger hair if you will and I’m thinking ‘why am I the only one being singled out here for poofy hair?” Adiele said.
She laughs just thinking about it.
“They are required to investigate and examine anything that poofs from the body? That sounds like a bogus policy to me. It just sounds bogus. Poofs?!” said Adiele.
She has filed a complaint about the incident but hasn’t heard back from the agency yet.
It could take a few days for that online form to work its way through the system.
The agency’s regional spokesperson says they’ll be glad to deal with any problems with Adiele when they see the details of her complaint.
He adds the TSA takes any charges of racism seriously but is confident this is a case of security officer doing their jobs and being very thorough in their efforts to protect the traveling public.