After official complaints from two black women who said they were racially profiled by their “sisterlocks” hair styles, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) on Thursday agreed to stop singling out women for screening based on the style, and says it will conduct anti-discrimination training sessions for its agents, reports Reuters.
Last year, Sacramento-based neuroscientist Malaika Singleton said she was checked at Los Angeles International Airport on her way to London when TSA agents began “pulling and squeezing her hair.” She said the same thing happened to her on the way back home, this time through the Minneapolis airport.
“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 said on Thursday, reports Reuters.
Singelton contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and it turned out that one of its lawyers, a black woman named Novella Coleman—who also wears her hair in the same style as Singleton—had the same experience.
Reuters reports that Coleman had already filed a complaint with the TSA in 2012, but got no results. However, Coleman filed another complaint and incorporated Singleton’s experience, and on Thursday the two women said that the agency agreed to conduct anti-discrimination training sessions with its officers.
“The first time I was on a trip with colleagues, some other attorneys who were white and Latina,” said Coleman. “The woman said, ‘I need to search your hair now,’ and she just started grabbing my hair and squeezing it from top to bottom,” Coleman said. Her white and Latina colleagues underwent no such searches, she said, according to Reuters.
The TSA apparently had no uniform explanation for the searches. One officer told Coleman that all passengers with hair extensions were searched, yet Coleman’s locs are not “extensions.” Another said people are searched if they have “abnormalities” in their hair, she said.
Statistics show that African Americans are searched more often by law officials than any other demographic.
As of press time, the TSA has not officially commented on the complaints or explained what the training sessions will look like.