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Curly Nikki

TSA Hair Search Racially Motivated?

By January 27th, 202139 Comments

Alicia Peck writes;

Hi Nikki,

I am an avid fan of your site and it has helped me tremendously since I went natural almost two years ago. I found this on MSNBC today… totally in shock, I thought you’d want to share with your readers. What do you guys think?

A woman says the TSA demand to search her hair at a Seattle airport was racially motivated. Allen Schauffler reports.

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  • Anonymous says:

    typo–in May.

  • Anonymous says:

    I got my very small hair bun searched (destoyed) at airport im May of this year and I am white.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey I work with DHS, thats a new policy hair of a man or a woman that is large enough to contain explosives (which is manufactured in powder and clay forms) may sometimes be subjected to further screening. What I don't understand is how everyone can complain about this kind of thing and not become educated on the subject or the reason for the event. And btw everyone consents to this suspension of your rights by choosing to travel via the airways. Hope everyone stays safe.

  • Dorian @ Big Apple Style says:

    I don't think it's racially motivated – as someone else mentioned, little white toddlers have been searched, some poor old lady had to take her adult diaper off (also white)…so the TSA is shaming and embarrassing people across the board! And I know personally I saw a white woman with a massive bun get her hair searched because she got just a bit too nasty with the TSA, and this was pre 9/11 days. I'm an extensions junky and I've never had someone try to screen my hair. Let's not forget that Seatac isn't exactly an airport with a high approval rating for how their TSA staff treats passengers. I think they're a step above Tampa honestly.

  • Anonymous says:

    The TSA search on that lady was not racially motivated. I'm sure it had everything to do with the new machines, people want to be safe but they scream they are being violated when safety measures are taken "better safe then sorry" SMH Tsa can't catch a break !

  • Curlee Courtnee says:

    They were just mad cuz her hair was FLY! LOL. Is "flying while curly" the new "driving while black"?

  • Jo somebody says:

    Stupidly, I went through a machine with a big metal duck-bill clip last week (a metal detector, not a body scan machine) because I was going to finish my twists on the plane and set the alarm off. All I had to do was remove the clip. If they patted down my afro, I would not be offended, because I know I could easily hide something in there (and it's still a twa, it's just so dense!). They shouldn't really be putting their hands IN your hair though, the same way they wouldn't put their hands IN your pockets (they normally ask you to remove what they feel in there, right?).
    I don't think it's racially motivated, it just happens to be that we can hide stuff in our hair. Personally, I'm a) glad my hair is nice and thick and b) glad the security staff are doing their job.
    If they are (rightly or wrongly) profiling Muslims, you have to remember that Islam is Africa's predominant religion, so they will want to be safer with people of African descent/who look African in the same way they eye up anyone who looks like they're from the middle east. Although, saying that, I don't know when any woman has been involved in terrorist activities, but what do I know??

  • SimplyMars9 says:

    I highly doubt it was racially motivated. My mom has relaxed hair and they did a hair search on her too. Her hair was in a very simply french braid, and not a huge afro. The TSA are just doing their job…for once

  • Anonymous says:

    Those buns are quick and easy. Just take it down…no weapons of mass distruction here and put it back up. I am use to racial stuff by now. I wish it were not the case and I also wish terrorist didn't exist but they do and this is just one thing that has to happen now if we fly. Anything seems to go.

  • moonchyldcrab82 says:

    When I went on a trip from Philly to St. Louis my friend was "randomly" searched both in the Philly airport AND St. Louis. He's black. Somehow that doesn't seem random to me. TSA workers are TAUGHT to look for suspicious things. So if you happen to have one of the suspicious attributes you WILL be searched more often. Unfortunately I'm convinced that some of those attributes they're taught to look for are racially and religiously motivated. Certain airports are probably more guilty of this than others but to pretend that certain people don't get searched more than others is being silly. If you don't believe it then try dressing up in traditional Muslim garb and see if you still think TSA doesn't profile people.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey Nikk, I will say that I understand Ms. Adiele's feelings about not wanting the TSA "blue gloves" in her hair but, I am a black girl who works TSA in Texas and screening the hair is an official part of the pat down we HAVE TO DO. Race does NOT matter, however OUR thick dense hair bunched up together might make it hard for a screener to clear a person on the screen;so a pat down would be in order. I am aware that all airports and screeners do not comply but it is true protocol. In this specific instance, it appears to NOT be racially fueled because it truly is procedure.
    Allnatural1 (Michelle in TX)

  • Anonymous says:

    Notwithstanding all the TSA comments and allegations of this being a racial profiling incident, I want to know Ms. Adiele's hair regimen b/c her curls are divine! Nik, any chance of you tracking Ms. Adiele down and getting her "hairstory"? It would certainly bring something good out of this incident.

  • Unknown says:

    I don't think it has anything to do with race, I am black myself, and I am natural and the way things are going down I wouldn't put it past anyone to smuggle things in their hair. I do think there is a lack of consistency when it comes to the authority, but I definitely don't think its racial.

  • modest-goddess says:

    I find it hard to believe the scanner couldn't see through a loose puff! I mean if it can see through your clothes how is her hair any different? I've been searched and patted down but no one has ever messed with my hair. I don't wear bobby pins or anything, just a goody headband. I don't get an attitude or anything cause I don't want to make it worse. And they do target brown people for searches more often. Also a white male coworker has a beard and they always search him too. Apparently not shaving makes him a potential terrorist.

  • Anonymous says:

    with all this crap there better not be another terriost bombing. because they wont have an excuse. ladies if you fly wear your hair open without pins n extensions cuz white ppl will put there hand in ur hair.

    I swear its like there checking if its real. (RACIST).

  • Sheedz says:

    I am so glad I read these comments. I'm getting ready to fly for the first time since going natural & I would hate for TSA to turn my WNG into a hot frizzy mess before I reach my destination. I think we tend to be really protective of our hair, so having a stranger demand to fondle it would feel invasive. I doubt that this was racially motivated. I do think that they were just doing their jobs in this case and it was not racial profiling. I do think that they may be beginning hair profiling. As much as I don't want them to touch my mane, if it keeps me safe, so be it. I am however going to need to try some styles to find out what will be best for travel.

  • Anonymous says:

    Having flown several times within the last year both domestically and internationally, I've yet to encounter any "racially motivated" issues with TSA (or any other security assigned to international airports). The one time I was stopped for a pat down was because I forgot I had a tube of homeopathic medicine in my pocket (some countries are pretty strict about bringing in any type of meds).

    All in all, TSA is dealing with a lot of new security rules and machinery that must be learned and implemented in a short time and if often changing. If we all were expected to do our jobs *perfectly* 100% of the time with the knowledge that a slip up could cost lives, we might not be so quick to cast doubt on others doing theirs. Yeah, there are power-mad kooks out there in every industry but let's not believe the hype that they all work for the TSA.

  • anewmeepassion says:

    wow what a coincidence. I was just telling my mother yesterday how in the future when all the black women are wearing their natural big hair. Then tsa will start searching through them bc we could easily hide a gun in it. smh

  • Anonymous says:

    All I am asking is that TSA be consistent. I had a cornrow updo with a faux braided bun attached secured with bobby pins when I flew out out of Seattle airport last week. I was heated when the TSA agent ( a sistah ) was picking at my bobby pinned hair , running the risk of messing up my coif ( paid $50 the day before ). Needless to say we exchanged words, but I had to calm down before I missed my flight to my own engagement party ( which Is why I really did not want my hair to be tapered with). Flying out returning from the Festivities thru LAX, I had NO problems. Mind you the same bobby pins where used. This is what irritates me the lack of consistency. I have flown out of Seattle with before with bobby pins with a less "intricate" style before so I dont know what gives. Seattle has very few African Americans , this makes me sad as so many of us choose to wear our hair natural due to the rainy weather. I have a huge fro that I have passed thru LAX with, I am tempted now on a day when I am not running late to the airport ( my usual modus operandi haa haa ) to "test" my theory that the Seattac airport is profiling. My fro (achieved with the help of a half wig) is very similar to what I imagine someone who is of Jewish descent could also have. Ill test my theory and let you all know. Sorry for the long post (my first) but this is hitting close to home and happened to me at the same airport not to long ago.

  • Anonymous says:

    If you don't do it to other "big hair" on non African Americans then its racial. Period.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm wondering what searching her hair actually consisted of? Did they pat it, run their fingers through it, comb it, what?

  • Lori says:

    Anymore, I feel like people are scared to say something is racist when it just is. It's like we have to say it's not to sound more neutral and progressive. Whatever! Had the story interviewed some TSA's or people of the majority who had their hair searched then I would be more inclined to shrug…but they didn't…probably because there were none. Just the scary black woman who might be hiding something…in her ponytail. Give me a break! It's racial profiling at its sneakiest and I'm not afraid to say it. There it is. It's out there…ignoring it to sound smarter won't make it go away.

  • Anonymous says:

    It sure seems racially motivated to me, especially when you have a white woman right near you with the same style and they don't bother her.

    If they are working from the racial stereotype like some have mentioned regarding things being "stored or hidden" in an afro, then I'd call that racially motivated. It's a racial stereotype isn't it?

    And that crap about "head coverings" is weak. The TSA knows good and well they weren't referencing actual hair with that line. Since when is hair referred to as a "head covering."

    She's right for calling them out. This is a slippery dang slope with these invasive scans and pat downs.

  • Anonymous says:

    I too was subjected to a "hair search". I have knee length locks that i always wear in a long braid down my back (makes it waist length in a braid). Once I approached the area, one of the TSA guys just went ballistic..saying things like…OMG look at her hair..she has really long hair ..and compared it to another black TSA woman at the gate. I thought it was weird at first that he should have been so vocal about my hair. He was black too. But it was the first time i was going through one of those body scanner machines and i was too PO'd about that to really take notice.. Sure enough..there was a women there who was standing so close to me as i was waiting to go through the machine that I could smell her soap. I went through twice..while the women who was running the scanner kept looking up and talking to the person in the "other room" where they were viewing my naked pictures. After the second time. The soap lady said they couldnt see through my hair down my back because it's too dense. So the scanner TSA lady ran her hands along my braid. It was one of the weirdest moments ever…weirder than the time i was coming back from the Caribbean and asked about why I had gone, what i had and basically interrogated..right after my white husband was shooed through without incident.

    Travel is not what it used to be

    – Business and Vacation Traveler

  • Anonymous says:

    it possibly could be motivated because some people have this odd notion that afros are used as storage space and can hold just about anything it can conceal. it just boils down to another ignorant stereotype.

  • yesSheGrows says:

    Maybe the TSA agent just wanted to touch her hair, feel her curls or something LOL
    I would too!
    my friend get pat almost everytime he fly, he is in the army, really tall and buff especially the female TSA they nearly violate him.
    he's a manwhore so he likes it tries to get their number sometimes… just to say sometimes they just wanna touch you LOL.
    it would be a bit inappropriate on the job to say wow! nice hair can I touch it? LOL

  • Pecancurls says:

    Ok, I just had a visual of Pam Grier as Sheba Shane pulling a piece out of her big fro. Not sure if it is racism as much as it is TSA maybe being a little too overzealous at times.

  • Unknown says:

    I don't think its racial issue at all. I've seen TSA go hard on EVERYBODY….I saw a woman have to take off her wig. She just pulled that girl off and got scanned, kept it moving. I kept thinking, thank God I didn't rock a wig because I wouldve been "shame faced" on that. lol I saw a comment on a hair board about this this morning and she summed it up so well:

    "The people are just doing their job, give them a break -SHEESH. Some naturals just get on my freakin' nerves making every little thing regarding natural hair a drama. smh Why me? why me? Because obviously they saw something worth checking out that they didn't see on the other people. Point-Blank-Period!"

  • CURLYNIKKI says:

    I walk through, very often, with a scarf on or my beanie because I'm in twists.. never been asked to remove mine. Thank God, lol. I always think about it though.

  • Kan says:

    I think it's a little dramatic to say that she was racially targeted in this instance. If you have a little fro they should be able to check it to make sure you're not smuggling something in there (I am giggling as I type this). And no, they might not have checked other curly fro ponytails, but that doesn't mean that just because they chose yours then it was because of your race.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't think this was racially motivated. There are reports of terrorist now surgically implanting bombs in the body.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well, I regularly fly with a headscarf and hat(for red eye or international flights) and I don't get harassed. The security people, black and white, just ask if I have bobby pins under my hat(which I frequently do), and sometimes they'll pat it, which is fair since it is metal, but they certainly don't harass me about it.
    Whatever you want to say, we don't get it as bad as people who look Indian or Middle Eastern.
    Most of the searching going on is silly and the TSA people all have a different way of approaching it.

  • Levone says:

    I'm not positive this particular incident was racially motivated or not. I had this done to me on a recent flight, and it turns out the Goody Spin pin I was using in my hair showed up on the scanner. 🙂
    However, from reading this incident (hadn't watched the video yet), it doesn't seem she had anything tucked in her hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I believe it was racial. Even before increased security at the airport. I had issues. Every time I would fly first/business class-I would get called out for extensive screening. At one screening, a black man was searching my luggage. He told me that in his experience that whenever black people fly business class, they are extensively searched.
    Not long after this conversation, I saw on television the band members of Hootie and the Blowfish (which had 1 black member) stating that whenever they flew that Darius-the sole black member-always had to endure extensive searching while the other members did not.
    I'm sure if research is conducted, we will see that minorities are searched at higher numbers than whites. If they are going to do this-be fair. Airports will continue to get away with this because they will say it is for the safety of everyone.

  • Anonymous says:

    This isn't a racial issue, as much as it is a TSA/national security/policy issue. These days, every type of person is getting singled out- black, white, or purple! Infants and toddlers are being searched, and mind you, just last month an elderly white woman took off her adult diaper during a pat down. The people in the airports don't want to touch you or violate you, but these are the practices being handed down the chain of command. This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with how we avoid a national security nightmare.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is ridiculous…while the scanners may have "detected" something it seems odd that she was the only person this happened to when as she stated there were other curly haired woman around

  • Anonymous says:

    P.S. both agents the patted my hair were black

  • Anonymous says:

    Just happened to me twice this month!! I am currently rocking a sew-in and after I came through the body scan they told me to step to the side and a female TSA agent patted down my hair. This was leaving Ft. Lauderdale airport and LAX..two seperate occastions! This has never happened to me before and I fly all the time! When leaving LAX the lady looked at my face and said oh its because "the machine detected something in your hair" Im like right some hair! Idk..maybe because the braids are packed so tight it looks like I'm smuggling something idk..but I don't think its racially motivated. I think it is the new bodyscan machine.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thats crazy, i'm in schock to. Her hair is beautifull btw.

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