Hindu guy makes the mistake of traveling on Ramadan

This week in Flying While Brown.

I've lost track of how many frustrating, mind-melting accounts I've read of innocent brown folks getting profiled, hassled and mistreated by airport security while traveling, just trying to get to wherever the hell they're going. Here's one more infuriating account from Aditya Mukerjee: JetBlue Refuses To Let Hindu Man Board Flight During Ramadan, Concerned About His "Disposition."

Mukerjee, who is Hindu, was traveling from New York City to Los Angeles to vacation with his family. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of flying during the Muslim holiday Ramadan -- I repeat, he is Hindu, not Muslim, and not that it friggin' matters -- which he believes ultimately got him detained for hours and questioned by the TSA, NYPD, FBI and Homeland Security. And yes, he missed his flight.

After going through the gauntlet of inane interrogation by all those agencies, it was ultimately the airline, JetBlue, that booted Mukerjee off the flight. He detailed the day's entire shitty experience in an infuriating blog post entitled Don't Fly During Ramadan.

When going through the security line, I opted out (as I always used to) of the millimeter wave detectors. I fly often enough, and have opted out often enough, that I was prepared for what comes next: a firm pat-down by a TSA employee wearing non-latex gloves, who uses the back of his hand when patting down the inside of the thighs.

After the pat-down, the TSA agent swabbed his hands with some cotton-like material and put the swab in the machine that supposedly checks for explosive residue. The machine beeped. "We're going to need to pat you down again, this time in private," the agent said.

Having been selected before for so-called "random" checks, I assumed that this was another such check.

"What do you mean, 'in private'? Can't we just do this out here?"

"No, this is a different kind of pat-down, and we can't do that in public." When I asked him why this pat-down was different, he wouldn't tell me. When I asked him specifically why he couldn't do it in public, he said "Because it would be obscene."

Naturally, I balked at the thought of going somewhere behind closed doors where a person I just met was going to touch me in "obscene" ways. I didn't know at the time (and the agent never bothered to tell me) that the TSA has a policy that requires two agents to be present during every private pat-down. I'm not sure if that would make me feel more or less comfortable.

Noticing my hesitation, the agent offered to have his supervisor explain the procedure in more detail. He brought over his supervisor, a rather harried man who, instead of explaining the pat-down to me, rather rudely explained to me that I could either submit immediately to a pat-down behind closed-doors, or he could call the police.

At this point, I didn't mind having to leave the secure area and go back through security again (this time not opting out of the machines), but I didn't particularly want to get the cops involved. I told him, "Okay, fine, I'll leave".

"You can't leave here."

"Are you detaining me, then?" I've been through enough "know your rights" training to know how to handle police searches; however, TSA agents are not law enforcement officials. Technically, they don't even have the right to detain you against your will.

"We're not detaining you. You just can't leave." My jaw dropped.
Read the rest of his account here.

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