After years of complaints that agents search black women's hair arbitrarily, the TSA has reached an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to stop this discriminatory practice.
"The humiliating experience of countless black women who are routinely targeted for hair pat-downs because their hair is 'different' is not only wrong, but also a great misuse of TSA agents' time and resources," said Novella Coleman, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Northern California in a press release. "We welcome this agreement and look forward to continuing to work with TSA to ensure agents receive adequate training to protect against implicit and overt racial biases during airport screenings."
This change comes after a Malaika Singleton, a Sacramento-based neuroscientist, was pulled aside by TSA officers as she was travelling to London for an academic conference on dementia, and then again on her way back during a layover in Minneapolis. According to Singleton, TSA agents "pulled and squeezed" her hair, without giving an explanation for the search.
"The first time I was shocked," she told Buzzfeed. "I just did not expect that. I felt violated."
Coleman had a similar experience, where she was told her dreadlocked hair needed to be searched because it had "abnormalities." While she raised the issue with the Department of Homeland Security in 2012, the TSA did not make policy changes at that time.
And these two women aren't the only ones who have been subjected to arbitrary searches -- back in 2012, singer Solange Knowles had her hair searched by agents, which she tweeted about to her followers:
While there's no word yet on what exactly the training will offer, Coleman will attend and observe the sessions and remains optimistic these sessions will help stop the discriminatory practice.
"I think right now we're in a hopeful place," she told Buzzfeed.
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