The day started innocently enough. I was at the airport waiting to pass through TSA security so I could board my flight and head out to my client’s trial. In preparation for the trip, I’d put a lot of thought into how to make this flight as simple as possible. I wore comfortable sneakers that could slip on and off easily. I minimized my luggage so that I wouldn’t have to check any bags. I packed TSA approved snacks (because as a pregnant lady, there is nothing more frustrating than being hungry… while stuck on a plane).
I’d even given thought to my hair. I considered wearing an Afro but if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s strange TSA agents poking and prodding my Afro with their latex gloved fingers. Sometimes it seems as though TSA agents who’ve never gotten to feel an Afro (or any type of Black hair) up close and personal use these “security checks” to get their overly-touchy-feely on.
Add to that the fact that since I have what many call “stiff” hair, if you poke and press on it, I’m left with the Erykah Badu version of an Afro that is “flat on one side.”
So I opted to forgo the Afro and braided my hair into two flat cornrows. Great, I thought, now no one has any reason to molest my hair in the name of national air traffic security.
Boy was I wrong. After waiting for what seemed like forever just to get to the TSA scanner, I walked through and thankfully no sirens, beeps or buzzers went off. “Home free!” I thought as I turned to grab my carry-on.
“Excuse me, miss. But we need to check your hair.”
I almost kept walking because surely they weren’t talking to me. After all, I’d patiently stood behind many (non-Black) women who walked through the scanner, picked up their bags and continued onto their gates—with no hair check.
“Miss, you, we need to check you hair.”
I was wrong. They were talking to me. And before I could say “what in the holy Afro pick,” a pair of latex blue gloves was digging into my neat Miss Celie cornrows searching for the weapon-of-mass-whatever that had to be hiding in my suspiciously kinky hair.
I was beyond irritated. But I was also late to board my plane so I sucked it up as just another micro aggression that Black women endure for the crime of being Black women.
Seems like we stay under a cloud of suspicion.
I’d almost forgotten about it by the time I arrived home at the end of the trial. Then I turned on the twitter machine and started reading about Kiera Wilmot, the Black Florida high school girl who was by all accounts a good student and who had never been in trouble. At least that was her story until she was arrested, expelled and had her beautiful face plastered all over the web (despite the fact that she’s a minor), because she was charged with two felonies for a science experiment gone wrong. The felony charges were issued at the urging of Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty, in spite of the fact that no one was harmed and no damage was done.
Upon joining in on the twitter outrage caused by this incident, my mind flashed back to the seemingly innocuous TSA invasion into my “suspicious” cornrows. I thought about the countless numbers of non-Black women in line ahead of me who passed through TSA completely unaware that one’s hair could actually be subject to a search.
Kiera’s story reminded me of the Black woman who was jailed and placed on probation for the (gasp!) horrible crime of sending her kids to a better school. Or Black women whose babies are secretly checked for drugs right after birth – despite the fact that White babies are not. In fact, there are seemingly countless stories where Black women (and yes Black men too) are subject to harsher punishments, stricter restrictions and more invasive intrusions into our rights.
All for the crime of being Black and female.
My prayers go out to Kiera Wilmot and her family. This girl had a bright future ahead of her and I hope she gets to fulfill it. Thinking about her and the countless Black women who struggle daily to make a better life for themselves or to just get by as we endure the numerous micro aggressions we suffer because of our race honestly makes me fear for the life of the daughter I am bringing into this world (and the son I already have).
I pray that by the time she gets here, I’ll have done something to make it a better world for her to live in.