I end every show with an editorial on one pressing and personal cultural topic. This week’s editorial discusses TSA’s policy change for black women’s hair brought on by an attorney at the ACLU. Watch the segment and read the transcript below.
In the past week, I’ve been to Florida, Virginia, Atlanta and our nation’s capitol. This state-hopping involves a lot of time in airports which gives me a lot of anxiety for a number of reasons: long lines, crying babies and the dreaded threat of a TSA hair patdown.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been through this more times than I can even tweet – yet I tweet about the experience anyway to document it because it is ridiculous, icky and othering to be pulled aside and told that there is an “abnormality” on your head that must be investigated with some stranger’s gloved fingers just going through your head.
And I know that I am not alone here.
In 2012, Solange Knowles revealed that she had experienced what she dubbed, “discrim-FRO-nation” at the Miami International Airport where TSA agents demanded to search her afro. She tweeted:
Discrim-FRO-nation. My hair is not a storage drawer. Although, guess I couuld hide a joint up in here. *Blames “Romnesia” (my wigs name)
— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) November 14, 2012
But this week, me, Solange and big-haired girls everywhere rejoiced when it was announced that the TSA finally agreed to stop profiling women with big hair and subjecting us to extra security screenings. This change in policy was brought on by Novella Coleman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who herself has been subjected to TSA pat-downs. Coleman said in a statement:
“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.”
And the TSA echoed Coleman to BuzzFeed News:
“The TSA reached an informal agreement with the ACLU to enhance officer training. Racial profiling is not tolerated by TSA. Not only is racial profiling prohibited under DHS and agency policy, but it is also an ineffective security tactic.”
I am obviously ecstatic that the ACLU challenged the TSA on their long-standing profiling of women of color with natural hair. It’s a policy shift that has wide-reaching consequences for all of us who choose not to conform our coils.
Like most women with natural hair, I grew up in a culture that rarely gave me access to images of women who embraced theirs. When I looked in magazines, when I watched TV, when I was in the workplace, brown girls with curls were nowhere to be found. I was told by an entire culture that I had to blow out, relax, straighten and fix my curls to make them look more appealing, to make me seem more palatable and professional.
And I believed those messages. I internalized those messages on a deep level. And it took me nearly two decades to embrace the way my hair grows out of my head. I was 19 when I finally let my hair just be and breathe and take up all the space.
Now my hair can take up all the space it deserves without fear of harassment, rebuttal or policing at the airport. The TSA change is reassuring to girls with curls, women with frocs and locs, baes with twists and braids because it’s one less institution that we have to argue with about our hair – about ourselves – taking up more room in this world that can’t help but make a fuss over our hair.
Watch all clips, conversations and interviews from “So POPular!” anytime at MSNBC.com/sopopular. New episodes every Friday at 11am ET!