TSA to stop profiling black women's hair during airport pat-down screenings

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On Thursday, two black women who say that their natural hair was patted down by airport security announced that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) had agreed to stop the racial-profiling of hair in their pat-down screenings.

Malaika Singleton, a Sacramento neuroscientist, said that she became aware of the problem last year on her way to a conference in London.

“I was going through the screening procedures like we all do, and after I stepped out of the full body scanner, the agent said, ‘OK, now I’m going to check your hair,'” Singleton said, noting that she went through the same thing at the airport on her way back home.

When Singleton contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, another woman there, Novella Coleman, had also had two similar experiences. Although Coleman had complained to the ACLU before, nothing had been done, but with Singleton’s testimony added to her own, there was now another complaint to be filed.

Coleman said that she had heard other black women give her similar stories, and every time, there was a new excuse from TSA staff for the search. They gave her every reason from “abnormalities” to searching hair extensions (even though Coleman does not wear extensions).

On Thursday, both women announced that the TSA had agreed to conduct anti-discrimination training and to stop the practice of searching women simply because of their natural hair.

According to the press release posted on the ACLU’s North California site:

The agreement stipulates that the agency will conduct trainings for TSA agents throughout the country, with special emphasis on hair pat-downs of black female travelers. TSA also committed to monitor all the airports the agency oversees for consistent implementation of TSA and DHS policies and to detect the existence of a racially discriminatory impact.