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A TSA Agent Had to Check Her Hair. Then: 'Giddyup!'

Native American woman Tara Houska says she was humiliated at being treated like an animal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2020 1:12 PM CST
A wait line at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport in Valparaiso, Fla., on Jan. 17, 2019.   (Michael Snyder/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)

(Newser) – A Native American woman who went through security at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport says she was humiliated by a TSA agent who yanked her long braids and treated her like "a horse." CNN reports Tara Houska, an environmental and indigenous rights activist, was flying into Minnesota Monday from DC, where she'd taken part in a protest with Jane Fonda, per the Bemidji Pioneer. Houska, who says her hair often sets off alarms in airport body scanners, says the scanner went off this time as well, and she describes in her own words what happened next. "The agent said she needed to pat down my braids," Houska posted on Twitter after the incident. "She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed & said 'giddyup!' as she snapped my braids like reins." Houska didn't love the agent's reply when she informed the worker she felt disrespected.

"[The agent] said 'Well it was just in fun, I'm sorry. Your hair is lovely,'" Houska noted. She also clarified it wasn't the hair pat-down that perturbed her—the TSA explains on its site agents have to check, because "you'd be surprised what can be hidden in hair"—but for how she was treated. "My issue is with her acting like I am a horse. I am a woman," she tells the Star Tribune. A 2019 ProPublica probe found women (especially black women) are often pulled out of security lines to have their hair checked, as various hairstyles tend to set off body scanners. TSA looked into the incident and apologized to Houska, who says she is satisfied with the response. She does, however, want the agency to educate its workers on Native American culture. "Good resolution from a bad situation," she tweeted. "We need more education & empathy for one another." (Read more TSA stories.)

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