Southwest Airlines is in the news again for calling the cops on a white mother traveling with her biracial daughter. A flight attendant thought the little girl was being trafficked. I think the flight attendant should be reprimanded.
Southwest Airlines Calls Cops On Mom Over “Suspicious” (Read: Different Color) Child
Mary MacCarthy, 42, was traveling on Southwest Airlines to Denver with her daughter Moira, 10. A Southwest flight attendant thought the couple looked “suspicious” and reported them to the captain. When they got off the plane, police in Denver were waiting to interview MacCarthy and her daughter.
Of course the Southwest Airlines flight attendant had a litany of excuses ready for why she had to notify authorities, including:
- The two boarded “suspiciously late”
- What does that even mean?
- During the flight, mother and daughter didn’t speak to each other
- The girl had headphones on and was the flight attendant really watching them the entire flight? I find it hard to believe they “never” spoke – how would a flight attendant know that?
- The mother “did not allow the child to talk to flight crew”
- The mother dismisses that as an “outright lie,” again noting the girl was simply listening to an audiobook using headphones
She had headphones on! Of course she was not going to be responsive. And why should she board early? Certainly I’m not going to board early when I’m with my young children if I can help it. Implicitly or explicitly, the post-hoc excuses are made up to cover the underlying judgment being made by the flight attendant on the basis of their different skin colors.
Even after the October 22nd incident, MacCarthy was contacted on November 1st by police to follow up on the “suspicion of human trafficking.”
Southwest is “disheartened” by the incident, but defends its flight attendant:
“Our employees undergo robust training on human trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of customers who travel with us each year.”
There will reach a day when my precious little daughter grows into a beautiful young woman. And I intend to travel the world with her, just like I will with my son Augustine. And when I do, I am not looking forward to having to protest sexist and ageist prejudices of TSA officers or flight attendants. While my job will be easier because we are both white, a father taking solo trips with his young daughter will be sure to rile up the prejudices of some who can’t understand such an arrangement.
Human trafficking is a real problem. There are many problems in this society that a more draconian sweep of law enforcement could fix. But we must also understand what we sacrifice when that occurs. Subjecting children…and parents…to interrogation on the basis of prejudice, fear, and irrationality is not something I am willing to endure in a free society.
The retort is always the same: well, your minor inconvenience is nothing compared to saving a girl from human trafficking. Yes, indeed that is true. But that is a false tradeoff.
I do not want to live in a society in which I must justify myself on the basis of an unfounded suspicion. I will absolutely not give the flight attendant the benefit of the doubt in the case, because a little small talk could have easily solved this problem. All three of her reasons are flimsy and don’t pass the smell test. The captain also should have declined to make the call.
Furthermore, you really think law enforcement care about this issue beyond the additional funding it provides? A phone call 10 days later? If this was really an important issue, a follow-up would have taken place much more rapidly.
I’ve written about these stories from time to time and they really do make my blood boil. The whole “out of an abundance of caution” excuse is nothing but a canard to mask prejudice. This isn’t about feeling hurt or offended, but about the ridiculous notion that we can hassle people who don’t fit our notions of what a family should look like.