Tara Houska. A Native American woman says that she was humiliated by a U.S. airport security agent in Minneapolis.
Houska says that while traveling through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport preparing to return home to Bemidji, Minnesota back on January 13, an airport security agent grabbed her braids “snapped them like reins” and told her to “giddyup.”
Houska is an attorney and activist for indigenous rights, She says that the Transportation Security Administration agent told her that needed to pat down her long hair, which was in two braids.
Houska says that the agent then pulled her braids behind her shoulders, “laughed and said ‘giddyup!’ as she snapped my braids like reins”.
Houska said the experience left her feeling “angry, humiliated”.
“Going through @TSA at Amspairport, 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. My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your “fun” hurt.”
Houska says that the agent “casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect me”.
She states that when she confronted, the agent she said: “It was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.”
Cliff Van Leuven who is the federal security director of TSA in Minnesota has apologized to Houska. He stated that he hoped the agency would “learn from this.”
“TSA holds its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct and any type of improper behavior is taken seriously,” the agency wrote in a statement.
Houska tweeted about Van Leuven’s apology writing, “TSA Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven acknowledged a “mistake”. “Did it actually happen? Yes. Exactly as described? Yes,” he told TSA employees.” It happened. It was humiliating. TSA apologized. I really, really hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else moving forward.”
This is not the first time that the agency has been accused of behavior that is offensive.
Back in July of 2019, two TSA employees created a racist display in the Miami International airport The display showed a gorilla hanging from a noose. The employees were placed on leave. Officials called the behavior “reprehensible.”
“We choose not to describe the display under investigation. This reprehensible act runs absolutely counter to the values of the agency, and therefore we do not want to provide it any credence,” a TSA official said last year.
“The display was immediately removed and an investigation was launched into who was responsible for the unacceptable behavior. TSA does not tolerate racist or offensive behavior and those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions. Two TSA officers have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing.”