TSA Agrees to Stop Singling Out Black Women With Natural Hair for Security Searches

The Transportation Security Administration will begin anti-discrimination training for its agents in April after two black women filed complaints about having their hair searched at airports, BuzzFeed reports.

The training comes after Malaika Singleton and Novella Coleman complained that TSA agents singled them out because they wore their hair in locs. Coleman says agents searched her hair three times several years ago. When she asked why, an agent told her that hair is searched if it has extensions or “abnormalities.”

Coleman is a staff lawyer with the ACLU of Northern California and she filed a complaint about the searches in 2012. No changes to the search policy were made at the time.

In 2013, Singleton said she was stopped in LAX and had her hair searched before boarding a plane to London. On the way back, her hair was searched during a layover in Minneapolis.

“The first time I was shocked,” Singleton said. “I just did not expect that. I felt violated.”

Coleman, the TSA and the ACLU reached a settlement in January. The TSA confirmed the settlement to BuzzFeed in an email stating, “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.”

The TSA has been accused of hair discrimination in the past, with Beyonce Knowles' sister Solange becoming the most famous example in 2012. The singer tweeted about the hair search, which took place before she boarded a flight in Miami. Other black women have expressed similar complaints over the years.

Coleman plans on attending the LAX training sessions and believes they will improve the search process.

“I think right now we’re in a hopeful place,” she said.

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