If it were true that we now live in a post-racial America—which it isn’t—it would seem that the airline industry Hasn’t gotten the memo. Apparently, it’s still very difficult for family members to travel on planes if there’s a child involved and everyone isn’t of the exact same race.
In California, a white woman is accusing Southwest Airlines of racial profiling after an incident where she said she was accused of human trafficking while traveling with her biracial daughter.
Mary MacCarthy, the mother, told CNN she and her 10-year-old daughter, Moira, were flying from Los Angeles to Denver on October 22 because MacCarthy’s brother had just died. The two had to stop in San Jose before boarding another flight continuing to Denver and MacCarthy realized she and her daughter wouldn’t be seated together.
“I asked flight attendants if we could be seated together but they told us we’d each have to take a middle seat,” MacCarthy said. “So with their permission, I asked other passengers if they would kindly move so we could be together, especially as my daughter was grieving, and they did. People are nice.”
So they got to sit together and all was right in the world—until they got to Denver and were confronted by police officers.
“I got quite a shock; having lost my brother the night before, I thought that someone else in my family had died and that police had been sent to deliver the news!” MacCarthy wrote in an email to Southwest Airlines’ media team, which was included in the police report, according to CNN. “As for my daughter, she was terribly frightened: she was already experiencing the trauma of her uncle’s death, and she is scared of police due to constant headlines about how police treat Black people (she is Black). She began to sob and was inconsolable.”
MacCarthy said the cops met them in Denver “because my daughter and I were reported for suspicious behavior, acting suspiciously before boarding and while boarding.”
“I took out my phone and immediately started recording,” she continued. “I told (the officer) who we were and that my daughter was crying because she had lost a family member.”
Ultimately, MacCarthy and her daughter were cleared of wrongdoing and allowed to leave, but the police report noted that officers were responding to a “possible Human Trafficking reported by Southwest flight attendant.”
So, let me see if I have this right: A Southwest flight attendant suspected that MacCarthy might be trafficking her daughter. But also, Southwest flight attendants initially told MacCarthy and Moira they couldn’t be seated together, which meant Moira could potentially have been seated next to adult strangers, which could possibly have led to…Know what? I’m just going to move on.
MacCarthy said she never received an apology from the airline, which indicates that she wasn’t very used to racial profiling because if she was, she’d know how seldom it’s something society believes warrants an apology.
Mind you, this isn’t the first time Southwest Airlines has been involved in this kind of incident involving flights from California and Denver.
In 2018, an interracial couple was traveling with the airline from Denver to Oakland with their biracial one-year-old son when, despite having all the proper identification, a desk clerk demanded that they prove the child was theirs through *checks notes* Facebook posts.
Another thing to note is that MacCarthy being white was probably the reason this was a brief incident.
Earlier this year, a Black woman was traveling with Frontier Airlines with her 4-year-old adoptive white sister from—bruh, again—Denver to Fort Worth, Texas, when she was confronted at the gate of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport by police after a passenger suspected her of trafficking and reported her. In that incident, even after the Black woman’s mother and social worker spoke to the authorities to confirm the two were family, officers continued to follow them to baggage claim so they could question the person giving them a ride from the airport.
Listen: I get that human trafficking, and specifically, child trafficking, is a serious problem, but when someone reports suspicious activity, maybe it’s time authorities start asking what the nature of the suspicion is before they just start pouncing on people. If the suspicion begins and ends at the fact that all parties aren’t of the same hue, maybe at least consider the possibility that the interrogation isn’t warranted.
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