8.22.2012

flying while brown: delta delays south asian passenger over a t-shirt

I travel a lot. And when you find yourself at the airport as much as I do, you develop a routine that attempts to minimize the number of headaches induced by the inconveniences of air travel. I'll admit, when it comes to the TSA's ridiculous security hoops, I have become compliant.

But I'm not Flying While Brown.

Reading over this account by Arijit Guha, about his recent run-in with Delta officials, the TSA, and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority -- over the possible security risk posed by his t-shirt -- you can't help but feel aggravated over the stubborn stupidity of it all: Arijit Vs. Delta.
Having been booted from our flight, the transit police now began to aggressively question us. At one point, I was asked where my brother lives (he was the one who gifted me the shirt). A bit surprised by the irrelevant question, I paused for a moment before answering.

"You had to think about that one. How come?," she asked. I explained he recently moved. "Where'd he move from?" "Michigan," I respond. "Michigan, what's that?," she says. At this point, the main TSA agent who'd questioned me earlier interjected: "He said ‘Michigan’." Unable to withhold my snark, I responded with an eye-rolling sneer: "You've never heard of Michigan?"

This response did not please her partner, a transit cop named Mark. Mark grabbed his walkie-talkie and alerted his supervisor and proceeded to request that he be granted permission to question me further in a private room. His justification?: "First he hesitated, then he gave a stupid answer." Michigan, my friends, is a stupid answer.

And then, he decided to drop any fa├žade of fair treatment: the veil was lifted, this was about who I was and how I looked: "And he looks foreign."
Now, you could argue that wearing a t-shirt like that isn't the smartest strategy for air travel, considering at minimum the number of stupid, jumpy people one encounters on a daily basis. But Arijit's absurd encounter with Delta agents should never have escalated as far as it did.

Read Arijit's full account, including some weak follow-up from Delta Airlines, on his blog here.

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