Black Women Object to TSA’s Airport Hair Pat Downs

The women say that they're unfairly targeted for additional screening at the nation's airports.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 19, 2011

Some black women who sport natural hairstyles are reporting receiving hair pat downs by the TSA agents at airports even after they’ve passed full body scans without setting off alarms.

Timery Shante Nance, who’s African-American says she doesn’t use chemicals or straighteners in her hair. "It’s just my natural texture, and I wear it in a normal-looking puff," she told the New York Times.

Nance says she was humiliated when a Transportation Security Agency (TSA) official patted her hair in front of everyone, "as if I’d done something wrong."

She asked the screener why her hair was searched while other passengers, including white women with ponytails or bushy hair, were simply waved through. "Is it just African-American women with natural hair who get the hair search?" she asked the agent.

Another African-American woman with naturally curly hair, Laura Adiele, was going through Seattle-Tacoma airport when she had her patted down. She had gone through a full body scan that had not set alarms.

In several interviews Adiele mentioned she felt the searches were racially motivated, reports the Times.

"All passengers are thoroughly screened coming through the screening checkpoint," Kristin Lee, a T.S.A. spokeswoman told the Times. "Additional screening may be required for clothing, headgear or hair where prohibited items may be hidden," she said.

Nance says she filed a complaint with the T.S.A. but has not heard back from the agency.