TSA Agent Treats Native American Woman Like A Horse, Grabs Her Braids And Says 'Giddy Up'
When would this ever be appropriate?
January 16, 2020 at 5:23 pm
Tara Houska, an Indigenous activist and attorney, was minding her own business at airport security on Monday when a TSA allegedly lost her ever-loving mind.
Houska said she complied with the agent's request to check her hair and before she was cleared, the woman snapped her two braids like reins and said “giddy up.”
Houska, the Native American affairs advisor to Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, is no stranger to demanding justice and respect for Indigenous people. She actively participates in movements that address climate change, highlights injustice through literature and action and corrects cultural appropriation of Native American symbolism in sports. Houska also informs the public through speaking engagements like Tedx Talks.
Houska was returning home to Bemidji, Minnesota, from Washington, D.C., after attending Jane Fonda’s weekly climate change protest in front of the U.S. Capitol. She encountered the disrespectful TSA agent while traveling through Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport and wrote about the experience in a series of tweets.
Going through @TSA at @mspairport, the agent said she needed to pat down my braids. She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed & said “giddyup!” as she snapped my braids like reins.— tara houska (@zhaabowekwe) January 13, 2020
My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your “fun” hurt.
In her post, she said when she confronted the blonde, middle-aged agent, the woman laughed and said “It was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.”
Houska said, "that is not an apology."
“My hair is part of my spirit,” she said. “Your fun hurt.”
When I informed the middle-aged blonde woman who had casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect me, she said “Well it was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.” <— that is NOT an apology and it is NOT okay.— tara houska (@zhaabowekwe) January 13, 2020
The tone-deaf apology parallels other outcomes of her constant struggles against white people who see Native American cultural relics and identities as costumes. The New York Times interviewed Houska, an Ojibwe woman, earlier this week about a Connecticut school that changed its mascot from “Redman” to “Redhawks” but then reversed the decision after residents voted out the school board. Houska told Times reporters, “Basically they’ve said, ‘Yes, we know it’s racist and offensive, but we’re actually going to go back to that because we like it more.’”
On Tuesday, TSA’s Minnesota Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven apologized for the agent's actions.
“TSA holds it’s employees to the highest standards of professional conduct and any type of improper behavior is taken seriously,” Bring Me The News reported.
Houska's story is one of many involving people of color being disrespected by non-poc workers in positions of authority. Last year, Texas Rangers walked a shackled Black man to jail while they rode on horses next to him. Earlier this month, an Oregon woman checking into a Marriott was asked to sign additional liability waivers in case she threw a party.
TSA is reviewing the video and says it “will take the appropriate action should an investigation substantiate the traveler’s allegation.”
Houska said that she hopes TSA does a better job training their employees.