As soon as you walk into an airport anywhere in America, you’re greeted by signs warning not to make jokes. If you do, airport security might drag you away into a back room for interrogation, or worse. TSA officers, on the other hand, feel free to be as humorous as they please.
On Monday, frequent flier Tara Houska was making a routine pass through security at the Minneapolis – St. Paul International airport. The female TSA agent was professional enough to start with, advising the Native American woman that she needed to “pat down her braids.”
That’s a reasonable request considering current terror threats, so Houska said sure. Then things got more than a little weird.
As CNN reports, “The agent pulled Houska’s braids behind her shoulders, laughed and said ‘giddyup!’ — while snapping her hair like horse’s reins.”
My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your “fun” hurt.
— tara houska (@zhaabowekwe) January 13, 2020
Houska couldn’t wait to tell the whole world about the incident on Twitter. “My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your ‘fun’ hurt.”
When Houska objected, the woman’s apology seemed to imply that the agent has some kind of cowgirl and Indian role playing fantasy fetish. “Well, it was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.”
Houska was outraged. “That is NOT an apology.” It was more like a proposition. “And it is NOT okay.” She called the comment “insensitive” on Twitter.
Houska travels frequently to appear at speaking engagements and hasn’t had any problems there in the past, noting the security staff is generally respectful.
Officials of the Transportation Security Administration looked into the incident Tuesday and issued a statement. “TSA holds its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct and any type of improper behavior is taken seriously.”
The agency’s Federal Security Director for Minnesota, Cliff Van Leuven, reached out to Houska and issued a more formal apology. “We all make mistakes,” Van Leuven wrote. He confirmed “the incident happened exactly as described by Houska.”
He promises that the incident will be appropriately addressed so it won’t happen again in the future. “Treating the public we are sworn to serve and protect with dignity and respect is our calling — every passenger, every day. We’ll learn from this.”
Ms. Houska never intended to get the agent into trouble, she only wanted to insure that “the staff is educated about the many Native American tribes and bands in Minnesota.”
Accepting that there was a “good resolution from a bad situation,” Houska updated her twitter feed to thank the TSA for “being professional.”