*ProPublica – via EURthisNthat.com – recently posted an interesting story on why so many black women are speaking out about having to deal with “intrusive, degrading searches” by TSA that centered on their hair.
Dorian Wanzer travels frequently for work. And almost every time she steps out of an airport body scanner, security screeners pull her aside and run their fingers through her hair. It’s called a hair pat-down.
“It happens with my natural Afro, when I have braids or two-strand twists. Regardless,” said Wanzer, who lives in Washington, D.C. “At this point in my life I have come to expect it, but that doesn’t make it any less invasive and frustrating.”
Wanzer, who had her hair patted down by Transportation Security Administration officers two weeks ago while she flew home from Raleigh, North Carolina, said she feels singled out when she is asked to step aside.
“When you find yourself in that kind of situation, it makes you wonder,” Wanzer said. “Is this for security, or am I being profiled for my race?”
Black women have been raising alarms for years about being forced to undergo intrusive, degrading searches of their hair at airport security checkpoints. After a complaint five years ago, the TSA pledged to improve oversight and training for its workers on hair pat-downs
But it turns out there’s an issue beyond the screeners: the machines themselves.
The futuristic full-body scanners that have become standard at airports across the United States are prone to false alarms for hairstyles popular among women of color.
In a request to vendors last summer, the TSA asked for ideas “to improve screening of headwear and hair in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.” That law bars federally funded agencies and programs from discriminating — even unintentionally — on the basis of race, color or national origin.
Two officers interviewed by ProPublica said the machines’ alarms are frequently triggered by certain hairstyles.
“With black females, the scanner alarms more because they have thicker hair; many times they have braids or dreadlocks,” said a TSA officer who works at an airport in Texas and asked not to be named. “Maybe, down the line, they will be redesigning the technology, so it can tell apart what’s a real threat and what is not. But, for now, we officers have to do what the machine can’t.”
Wow. Let that sink in. Read the full report at EURthisNthat.com.