Tara Houska humiliated by TSA agent who snapped my braids like reins during screening at Minneapolis-St Paul airport
The federal Transportation Security Administration has apologized to a Native American woman who said an agent at Minneapolis-St Paul international airport pulled her braids and said giddy up! when she took a flight from there this week.
The agent said she needed to pat down my braids, tweeted Tara Houska, an indigenous rights advocate and attorney. She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed and said giddyup! as she snapped my braids like reins. My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your fun hurt.
Houska, who is Ojibwe, added: When I informed the middle-aged blonde woman who had casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect me, she said, Well it was just in fun, Im sorry. Your hair is lovely.
That is NOT an apology and it is NOT OK.
According to the Washington Post, women of color have long experienced problems at TSA checkpoints, because natural, braided or twisted hair prompt flags on security devices, spurring more invasive screenings.
Bring Me The News, a Minnesota website, appeared to have been first to report Houskas experience.
In a statement to the Guardian, the TSA said it had been made aware of allegations made by a traveler about her screening experience at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport [on] Monday morning.
TSA officials investigated the incident and on Tuesday afternoon, TSAs federal security director for Minnesota, Cliff Van Leuven, spoke with the traveler. He apologized for actions and a comment that were insensitive and made by a TSA officer to the traveler during the screening experience.
Van Leuven also wrote to airport staff.
In the news last night and today, he said, youve likely seen or heard – of a TSA officer at MSP who was insensitive in screening the long braided hair of a Native American passenger Monday morning. Did it actually happen? Yes. Exactly as described? Yes.
This morning, I reached out to the passenger via email. She called me back early this afternoon. I apologized for how she was treated during the screening of her braids and we had a very pleasant conversation.
She reiterated that she doesnt want the officer to get in trouble, but she is hoping well take the chance to continue to educate our staff about the many Native American Tribes/Bands in our state and region to better understand their culture.
The airport apologized on Twitter.
Houska could not immediately be reached for comment.