The TSA Is Profiling Your Hair

Yesterday—after an anecdotal story about black women receiving hair pat-downs—we asked you, the traveling public, whether you've experienced racial profiling at the hands of the freedom-protecting TSA.

The consensus: No, they're like that with everybody! A sampling of the relevant comments and emails:

  • "If someone's goes to the body scanners and there is an anomaly on the head, the head gets patted down in the hair area to clear it. This is usually because of bobby pins hair ties or clips. However big poofy hairdoos will cause an anomaly as well resulting in a quick patdown of the head. The racial profiling stories were nothing more than two women with big hair that both happened to be black. No profiling is going on as you cannot perceive race or skin color in the images."- From a TSA employee at the Phoenix airport.
  • The TSA Is Profiling Your Hair"I'm a white girl with long, thick hair that I usually wear in some sort of messy bun thing (especially when i'm at the airport.) In any event, the few times I've been through TSA checkpoints (I'm Canadian) they've patted down my hair and even sort of gone through it to see if there was anything hiding."
  • "My hasidic friend gets his beard "patted down" at nearly every airport he goes through."
  • "I get my hair patted down EVERY time I fly (which is pretty frequently). I'm not black, though — I'm Italian-American. But I do have long, big, curly hair that I often wear up. I think it's a hair size thing rather than a race thing."
  • "I was traveling from Logan with a colleague, and her blonde hair was all sorts of felt up. I think it was because her hair was tied in a bun which might have been too dense to see through using the scanner."
  • "I travel a lot for work - I've been through most major hubs and a lot of rinky-dinky local airports, too. I'm also a suspicious-looking ethnic minority (somewhat defused by my "I'm an Amurrcan" crumpled business casual, you know, with the wrinkles in the pants and the shirt half untucked). That being said, I've been clearly and evidently profiled only once - 99% of the time, I zip on through security just like an honest American."
  • "[Behavioral] profiling has been going on for a long time. The hair thing, Big hair gets checked. Men, women, black, white. My most hated time of the day is checking a white college kids stinky dreds. Yeah, I do work for the tsa.

There are plenty more stories in yesterday's comments, but these are fairly representative. According to Gawker readers—who are quicker to complain than perhaps any other group on earth—the TSA profiles bushy thick long crazy hair, but not race per se. A heartening anecdotal answer to an disturbing anecdotal question!

And now, a special bonus comment, for your enjoyment. Can anyone help this man?

When I fly I dress down to be very, very comfortable, usually in some sweats, sneaks, and a t-shirt, and maybe a sweater jacket, Timberland vest, or a hoodie. I'm 6'1, 155, pretty skinny. I have skin that is deep brown in tone (I'm from Northern Nigeria where almost everyone is Hausa and Muslim; but I am atheist; my father is have German). I am a boxers sort of guy (no real reason; they are just more comfortable). The combination of sweats (especially light colored ones) and boxers makes most guy's Swing Low (and I don't mean the African-American spiritual). Every single time that I fly, especially if I am going to an African or Caribbean nation or my home country, I am stopped and frisked with a direct attention to the front of my sweats even after I elected to do the body scanner. I am point-blank asked what is the object in the front-pocket of my sweats (and I don't have a front pocket in any of my sweats). My sweats ride around my waist—I do not (emphatically) wear them so that they hang low like saggers. When I am patted the TSA person always pats my genitals very hard and sometimes he grabs them and rolls them in his hands to, I presume, make sure that they are not whatever they suspect them to be. I never make a federal case out of this. But what I'd like to know is this: is this kind of frisking normal for guys who fly in sweats and boxers? Or could it be that I am profiled and on some sort of list because of my cultural background?

[Photos via Getty]