Boooooy, when I tell you being Black in America means never knowing which mundane and routine thing you are doing will cause you to look suspicious to someone.
At the moment some rando happens upon you and decides something doesn’t look right, you might be taking a walk around your own neighborhood, on a jog, taking out the trash, driving a nice car late at night—or you might be a Black woman traveling on an airplane with a white child when someone assumes you’re a child trafficker and reports you to airline personnel.
ABC 7 Denver reports 21-year-old Lakeyjanay Bailey, who is Black, was traveling with Frontier Airlines from Denver, Colo. to Fort Worth, Texas with her 4-year-old adoptive sister, Olivia, who is white. Everything was going fine, as far as Bailey knew, until the plane landed at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and the two travelers were stopped by police officers at the gate.
“There were two police officers, and they came up to me and said, ‘Is it okay if we talk to you?’” Bailey said.
One officer asked Olivia, “if she knows me and what am I to her, and he asked what my mom was to her.” A series of other questions would follow.
According to a DFW Department of Public Safety incident report, the officers responded to a request from Frontier Airlines for law enforcement to meet them at the gate.
According to Bailey, officers spoke with her mom and a social worker to confirm certain pieces of information. Then, they followed the pair to baggage claim before speaking with the person who picked them up.
“The whole time they were talking with us, people kept staring at us, whispering and stuff,” Bailey said.
The incident report said Frontier Airlines requested police to investigate the matter after a passenger on the plane was concerned about a possible human trafficking incident involving a female born in 2001 who was traveling with a female born in 2017.
Riiiiight, it was the age gap that made the Black woman look suspicious. Perhaps it would have made more sense for the *checks notes* 4-year-old to be traveling without a *checks notes again just to make sure* adult.
The airline appears to be working hard to keep race as separated from the issue as possible, even going as far as to tell ABC in a statement, “Race played no part in the actions of the flight crew who were following established protocols.”
“A concern was raised during the flight by another passenger who was sitting near the woman and child and suspected human trafficking,” the statement read. “That passenger approached the flight crew with those concerns and subsequently completed a written report during the flight to document her observations. The captain was notified and felt an obligation to report the matter. Air travel is one of the most common means for human trafficking.”
OK, but do you know what is “one of the most common” reasons Black people get stopped by authorities for simply existing in close proximity to whiteness? Racism.
Listen: Even if the airline was just following protocol, it needs to be understood that for Black people involved in situations like these, watching the obvious be downplayed to respect everyone’s feelings except yours is immensely frustrating. No one automatically assumes child trafficking when they see an adult woman and a child of the same race.
Bailey said she doesn’t even believe a white woman traveling with a Black child would be treated the same way.
“If the roles were changed and it was a white person walking off the plane with a Black person, like a Black child, I feel like things would be different,” she told ABC.
It’s also true that many people just don’t understand the fear, humiliation and resentment Black people feel when being followed around by authorities for doing nothing but minding our own business. Why was it necessary to keep following Bailey and questioning her ride after all the information she had already told authorities was verified?
Anyway, according to ABC, Bailey and her family are considering filing a lawsuit against the airline.