The Transportation Security Administration is apologizing to a Native American woman after an agent at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport grabbed her braids and yelled, “Giddyup.”
Tara Houska, who is a prominent Native American activist and co-founder of Not Your Mascots, was pulled aside so a TSA agent could pat-down her braids. Houska wrote on Twitter that she was left “angry” and “humiliated” after a female agent grabbed her braids, snapped them like reins, and yelled “Giddyup.”
“Going through @TSA at @mspairport, the agent said she needed to pat down my braids. She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed & said ‘giddyup!’ as she snapped my braids like reins. My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. Imam angry, humiliated. Your ‘fun’ hurt.”
When confronted by Houska, the agent tried to laugh the situation off.
“When I informed the middle-aged blonde woman who had casually used her authority to dehumanize and disrespect me, she said ‘Well it was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.’ <— that is NOT an apology and it is NOT okay.”
After learning about what happened, the TSA launched an investigation into the matter. Cliff Van Leuven, the TSA’s federal security director in Minnesota, personally apologized to Houska. She told him that she did not want to see the employee disciplined and instead wanted to use the incident as a learning experience.
“The way that I personally felt about the situation was that I didn’t want the employee to be fired because I didn’t want that person to (be) bitter and then for no one to learn anything,” Houska told the Bemidji Pioneer. “I feel when it comes to empathy, people really lack that for each other, and that’s not a good thing.”