TSA to Conduct Anti-Discrimination Training to Avoid Hair-Based Racial Profiling: Report

A TSA arm patch seen at Los Angeles International Airport in 2014
David McNew/Getty Images

Two black women filed a complaint with the Transportation Security Administration claiming that their sisterlocks made them targets for TSA agents at airports. Now, they say, their complaint has prompted the agency to put measures in place to stop the singling out of women based on hairstyles, Raw Story reports.

It all started when Malaika Singleton, a Sacramento, Calif.-based neuroscientist who happens to wear her hair in sisterlocks, was stopped last year by a TSA agent at Los Angeles International Airport while on her way to an academic conference in London. Singleton was allegedly singled out by the agent, who began pulling and squeezing her hair, according to the report.


“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 recalled on Thursday.

It happened again when she was returning home through Minneapolis, so Singleton contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, only to find out that one of the lawyers there who also wears her hair in micro-dreadlocks had the same experience twice.

The lawyer, Novella Coleman, had filed a complaint in 2012, though it brought about no action, Raw Story notes. However, she filed another complaint detailing Singleton’s experience, and she says that the TSA agreed to start implementing anti-discrimination training sessions to avoid hair-based racial profiling.

“The first time I was on a trip with colleagues, some other attorneys who were white and Latina,” Coleman said of her own experience, “the woman said, ‘I need to search your hair now,’ and she just started grabbing my hair and squeezing it from top to bottom.”


Her colleagues did not have to go through such a search. Coleman added that one officer said an individual’s hair is sometimes searched if that person has “abnormalities” in his or her hair, the site notes.

Coleman said she was not sure what kind of training the TSA had planned for its staff. A spokesman for the TSA did not comment.


Read more at Raw Story.

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