jessica tholmer
April 02, 2015 11:49 am

I just got back from a little trip to Phoenix. Going through airport security I thought a lot about my hair. Yes, my hair. I’m Black, but my hair is not Black enough to alert security measures — unfortunately, that is a legitimate concern for a lot of people.

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it will finally agree to re-train their security officers who for years have been arbitrarily searching Black women’s (and some men’s) hair — it is a practice that is embarrassing, invasive, and discrimination. With the changes expected, Black women will finally not be targeted by TSA simply for having natural hair while traveling. This retraining can’t happen soon enough.

Many complaints have been lobbed against TSA by Black women saying they (and specifically their hair) were targeted by TSA. One woman who was repeatedly profiled is Novella Coleman, who filed a formal complaint with the TSA in 2012. Coleman also happens to be a lawyer with the ACLU of Southern California. Her complaint did not lead to change, but a second complaint filed by neuroscientist Malaika Singleton caused the TSA to listen.

Their complaints were further backed up by other big name women like Solange Knowles and MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry who also spoke out about their treatment by TSA. In 2012 Solange sent the following powerful tweet:

In 2013, Harris-Perry sent an open letter to then-TSA president John Pistole writing, “if your $170,000 machine can see under my clothes, but can’t figure out I’m not hiding a bomb in my braids, maybe it’s time to recalibrate the machine.” 

This month TSA will finally start retraining their officers. Bryan Hudson, a TSA policy advisor, sent Coleman a letter explaining the changes. He wrote that new training would include “special emphasis on hair patdowns of AfricanAmerican female travelers,” and that TSA would be closely tracking any hair patdown related complaints. Thank goodness.

Black women and ALL women should be allowed to wear their hair however they wish without it being a national security issue. Like, seriously. Girls who rock their ‘fros — I love you the most. As FLOTUS would say, Black girls rock! And we do not deserve this kind of treatment, especially when all we’re doing is running to catch a flight.

[Featured image , Solange tweet .]

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