TSA Agent Accused Of Using Native American Woman’s Braids As ‘Reins’ And Says ‘Giddyup!’
A Native American says she’s “angry, humiliated” after a TSA agent grabbed her ponytails and told her to “Giddyup!” She is calling the agent out on Twitter. Tara Zhaabowkwe Houska is an indigenous rights activist who was returning home to Bemidji, Minnesota through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Aiport when a TSA agent described as a “middle-aged blonde woman” told her that she needed to pat down her traditional braids. Houska later recalled how “she pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed & said “giddyup!” as she snapped my braids like reins” in a tweet that has since gone viral. Houska says she is “angry, humiliated” because her hair is part of her spirit. “Your ‘fun’ hurt,” Houska indirectly told the agent through her followers.
When Houska told her that her actions dehumanized her, the agent replied to say, “Well it was just in fun, I’m sorry. Your hair is lovely.” Houska maintains that “that is NOT an apology and it is NOT okay.”
Tara Zhaabowkwe Houska tweeted about her uncomfortable, abusive experience with the federal employee.
“Going through @TSA at @mspairport, the agent said she needed to pat down my braids,” the indigenous climate change activist tweeted, adding, “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. I am angry, humiliated. Your “fun” hurt.”
Her followers are shocked. “What the f***??? I’m really sorry this happened to you,” tweeted one doctor. Several Indigenous folks have offered their prayers to Houska, praying that “a balm wash over you whenever this incident comes to mind. Relax your shoulders. Feel your breathing, in and out over your upper lip. I will DM you. This must never happen again.” Non-native folks are also chiming in to express their horror. “What the actual f***? I’m not native anything, and I’d find that seriously inappropriate just based on decency. I can only imagine what it’s like for a Native American to experience this! Disgusting behavior on that woman’s part,” tweeted one Mika Johnson.
Houska is highlighting how harmful it is when aggressors claim their racism is “just in fun.”
“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,” Houska followed up in a separate tweet. “Humiliating and demeaning other people is not fun. It’s an abuse of power. The ‘I’m joking,’ ‘it’s all in fun’ stuff is garbage talk,” added NBC journalist Margaret Larson.
Other’s are saying that this is “white privilege at its worst.” Not all middle-aged white folk are this tone-deaf. Well, if they didn’t grow up in America. One Copenhagen white man was shocked, tweeting, “The US society REALLY have some serious problems respecting people of colour or just being different. I really hope the US can get to a point where this is not OK. It is white privilege at its worst.”
In the end, Houska is being offered endless support by empaths in her feed.
The MSP Airport responded to her now-viral tweet to say, “We are so sorry to hear about your experience, Tara, and we’ll send this tweet along to @TSA leadership for follow-up. We’d also be happy to file a formal complaint on your behalf, if you DM us your contact information.” Tara responded to inform the official account that direct messaging isn’t available on their account but offered her email address, along with a curt, “Thank you for responding.” TSA’s publicity control Twitter account (AskTSA) also responded to the tweet to say, “We regret to hear that you had a bad experience at the security checkpoint. If you’re willing, please DM your email address, so that we may gather more details.”
“I’m so sorry you were treated that way, very grateful for your activism, and admire your compassion toward the numbskull TSA agent, wishing simply for better training as a remedy, you are a better person than many of us. Love kindness & mad respect to you,” tweeted one follower. “Disgusting. This goes beyond unprofessional and directly to demeaning, humiliating and disgusting. Your employee needs to apologize publicly and be disciplined,” another horrified follower tweeted.
Many are demanding this woman be fired. We’ll continue to update this story as it develops.