What’s up with the ‘fro frisking?

Beware, assaults, no smoking and no sharp objects
Will natural hair be added to this list?
photo by David Lisbona via Creative Commons

Back when I lived in California and most of my loved ones lived nearly 3,000 miles away in Alabama and Kentucky, I was hopping on a plane every few months with ease. But these days I’m terrified of flying. No, I’m not afraid the plane will fall out of the sky. I know the annual risk of being killed in a plane crash for the average American is about 1 in 11 million. What I hate most about flying is going through the security checkpoint as TSA regulations get stricter and stricter year after year. And there’s a chance the next time I fly my curly coif may get a pat down too. 

Patrice Yursik of the popular natural hair and beauty blog Afrobella recently had her afro inspected by a TSA agent at Chicago’s Midway airport, as she shares in an article at xoJane. Yursik, who admits that one of her first thoughts was “I can’t wait to tweet about this,” had a good attitude about the situation:

I laughed at the situation right away. I could tell the TSA lady didn’t want to feel up my hair any more than I wanted her to. The whole thing had a taste of let’s-get-this-indignity-over-with-shall-we about it. The fact that I blog about natural hair (among other things) for a living made it all feel wry and ironic. Maybe I could just laugh it away. La la la. But the outraged Twitter responses I got started to resonate.

Yursik went on to say that while she completely understands that the TSA is only trying to make air travel safer for us all, the indignity is still hard to shake:

And I get it. I get that things won’t ever be the same when it comes to air travel. I get that the Transportation Security Administration is here to keep us safe from terrorist attacks. In a world where explosives have been smuggled on flights using shoes and underwear, it makes sense that airport security would want to do the most thorough checks possible. I appreciate their efforts. But to be really real with you, the more I contemplate what happened to me and my hair at the airport and what’s happening to other women and men like me, the less cool I feel about it.

Furthermore, Yursik shared that on her flight she sat next to a blonde, white woman with “a big, fluffy, fabulous cropped head of curls” who said her curly hair wasn’t examined, and that she thought it was weird that the TSA singled me out, seeing as her hair was just as voluminous as Yursik’s. 
Yursik’s incident certainly isn’t the sole case of the ‘fro frisking. Renowned Dallas hairstylist Isis Brantley recently faced the same humiliation at the Atlanta airport, in September.
Yet, as horrible as all this sounds, I can’t help but think, “Well, better safe than sorry.” I certainly don’t want the TSA to be lackadaisical in its efforts to keep our flights secure. However, if people of color are being singled out in these big hair pat downs, that is unacceptable. 
Either way, this naturalista isn’t looking forward to the next time she has to fly the so-called friendly skies. 



  1. I had my ponytail felt up at the Cleveland airport last month. Like she got all up under my scrunchie and felt me up. It was very odd, especially since I had just been through the super-duper x-ray machine.

  2. And that’s what I don’t understand about these searches: if you don’t set off the metal detectors and you’ve gone through the x-ray machine why do you still need your hair groped? So frustrating.

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