Why I Am Silent at TSA Checks
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Politics and Activism

Why I Am Silent at TSA Checks

Because Somebody Needs to Talk About This

Why I Am Silent at TSA Checks

To be quite honest, I was going through a horrible case of writer’s block this entire week. But I happened to be traveling this week, and I went through every American Muslim’s/ People who are racially profiled as Muslim/non-white, and the lyrics to Handel Messiah’s angel music went through my head.

I had been preparing for weeks to go abroad, but not for the actual trip. Actually, I didn’t pack my second suitcase till the morning I had to leave (some might call it procrastination, I call it risk-taking to be a better IB student). What I had been preparing for was the TSA checks. I planned everything I would carry in my bag- down to the last snack in there. No liquids, no nothing. I put anything that looked sharp in my bags. Heck, I only took one pen with me so that no one would say I had too many pens (because when you’re a Muslim, the TSA people take “the pen is mightier than the sword” quite literally). At the TSA lines before the full body scanner, I was fifth in line and I had my shoes off, my laptop out, my pockets emptied, and every other dumb stupid thing they wanted me to have out. I went in line and before the guy even said anything I had my hands up in the proper position. I walked out of the dumb machine and waited like you are supposed and the machine, for once in my life, said OK. I had not gotten an OK for years, it was a true moment of bliss. Which was utterly crushed in exactly 3.5 seconds by the TSA lady going, “Ya you are ok, but I still have to check your hijab”.

She was halfway to my head before I opened my mouth to say an irritated “sure”. But you see, I am not writing this article because of a single TSA check, I am writing this because for the last year I have traveled eleven times (I’m popular), and of those I was stopped and checked nine times. No, I am not kidding. Going to the airport for some people might get irritating because of the long lines. For me, I don’t worry about the TSA lines- I worry about how humiliated I am going to get today.

Whether you thought the head pat was awful or you thought it was nothing, I would like to kindly let you know that it was not even close to some of the experiences I have ever had. The scanner really seems to like my right leg, as oftentimes there always seems to be something wrong with it. My bag has been repeatedly used for “random scanning”. My laptop has also been repeatedly “randomly checked”, and when I asked why one time, I just got a mumbled “safety measures” response. But I think one of the most humiliating experiences for me happened on my way from Columbus to Atlanta. I did everything right, packed the bag right, and made sure that there would be nothing on that day. Here are the two things I did wrong: left maybe a millimeter of water in my water bottle and apparently having a vagina. I came out of the full body scanner, and the lady and I waited for a second while the machine opened, and the little square showed up around my genitals. No, it really did. The lady looked at me for a second, and I looked back at her, and she asked me if I have anything there by chance that I forgot about. I told her the only thing that I could think of was my underwear. She was really nice about it, but then asked me again, I asked her if maybe I had stood wrong or something, and she let it slip that the machine just does that sometimes. I thought that at that point she would make me go stand in it again, but instead, she explained to me the procedure and how basically she was not going to touch my cooch, but my thighs and my stomach. As if I was not in enough shock, she asked me if I wanted her to do this publicly or privately. I looked at her for a second, and then I said privately. They then took me to a closet nearby, making me drag my bins with me (I wasn’t allowed to put anything away and they would not let me put my shoes on). After the fiasco in the room (which I do not want to go into details about) I asked if I could put shoes on before leaving the room, and they said once they got the scan back. They made me wait in the room an extra ten minutes, and when they came back the lady just took my bins outside and placed them on the bench. I scrambled to put everything together before anyone could look at how red my face was from being humiliated.

So then the question comes about: Why don’t you say anything? And as much as I believe in people speaking up for themselves against institutionalized oppression, here’s the thing: I am not in a position to change these things. As the oppressed minority in this situation, it doesn’t matter that I am a customer at the airport who has paid for the ticket the same as everyone else. It does not matter that I am a high achieving and over involved college student. It does not matter that I am a writer, or that I was on a trip to represent my school at a leadership conference. It does not matter that I am tired of being humiliated at the airport because of my religious affiliation, or that people who look like me have gone through worse experiences. At the end of the day, because of the institutionalized racism, sexism, and islamophobia set in place, I am just another Muslim girl whose complaints fall on deaf ears. So I do not stay silent because I like it, I stay silent because I have a flight to catch.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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