by G. Brown
It started with a simple, ‘step this way ma’am’ and ended with CNN’s guest contributor Angela Rye feeling violated and in tears. It’s what happens to countless people at airports daily as they try to fly home, to job meetings or on vacation.
Rye recently videoed and posted the extra security measure she was randomly chosen to endure while flying from Detroit to New York. Most people just take off their shoes, sometimes jewelry and belts and go through the scanner, collect their items on the other side and rush to board their flight. Others are chosen for various reasons to be subjected to a more extensive, additional search that usually means being pulled aside and patted down. Rye says she thought her selection was “ridiculous”, but she eventually complied. She dismissed when offered to be escorted to a more private room or area because she just wanted to get it over with. In hind site, she probably wishes she had asked for the private room.
Rye said she was wearing a floor-length wrap dress. The TSA agent asked her to spread her legs as x-ray machines alerted a warning in three areas near her feet, back and vagina. The alerts alarmed Rye, but for a different reason as she told the agent, “You know you aren’t patting down my vagina, right? Like that ‘s NOT happening.” But it was going to happen unless Rye wanted to miss her flight and be escorted from the airport. Rye continued protesting until a police officer was called over who patiently listened to her concerns and explained it all as normal procedure and that it would be a back hand pat-down.
Still hesitant, Rye agreed to the pat down with the contingency that the police officer video the entire security check. Rye describes it all as uneventful–until, she says the female agent “went down my leg, up mu dress, and her hand sideways hits me right in the crack of my labia.” Rye says she was so startled that she jumped and then she could feel the rush of humiliation and violation. Rye says at this point she could feel “a lump in my throat trying to hold back tears.”
Here’s the video of the entire procedure that Rye shared on social media…
Rye wants to know ‘how does violating passengers by patting down their genitals make America safer?’ Rye says she understands making the country safe but at what cost? She says “we should not violate the emotional and physical safety of our nation’s citizens at the same time.”
But some say they have been violated. Black women complained that they were subjected to more pat downs because of their hair. Women with weaves and braids said they were being singled out. TSA retrained its agents and no longer go after women because of elaborate hair extensions or styles.
As for the profiling, to some degree, it’s expected. Agents are watching how many times you yawn or for other nervous behavior like whistling too much. But critics have complained that the security system is a needle in a haystack approach that isn’t based on proven methods or science. It’s primarily based on humans reacting to other humans they see as ‘potentially dangerous’. That’s the same logic that causes White women to clutch their purses when a Black man–no matter how impeccably dressed—approaches them on the street or in an elevator. It’s flawed and based on fear.
Rye says by sharing her experience, she hopes to open the conversation that something needs to change “…invest in new equipment. It is definitely time for them to keep their hands away from vaginas.”
What do you think…is this the new world we live in and we should expect to be subjected to such treatment? Is Rye over reacting? Or is this an indication that airport security is out of control?