government · law · politics · religion · U.S. Constitution

Targeted, touched, and ticked off by the TSA

TSA signAfter the past six or so years of traveling through various airports around the US, I’ve come to the conclusion that the TSA just doesn’t like me very much. And I can’t seem to figure out why. Granted, they’ve never pulled me out of the security line to take me into some back room for an interrogation–at least, not yet–so I know I’m not on the terror list. But after I’ve been patted down approximately 7 to 8 out of 10 times of traveling, I’m starting to wonder if I’m on some other list of theirs.

Is it because I’ve criticized them and other government agencies here on my blog and my accompanying Facebook page? Is it because I’m critical of Islam? Or is it because I’m a Christian conservative? And even though I’m not one to play the race card–is it because I’m black? I can’t tell which, if any of these, it might be.

But here’s what I do know. I carefully check the TSA rules days before I make my trips. Sometimes I don’t bother carrying any liquids, gels, shaving cream or anything like that to avoid the hassle of putting them in clear plastic zip bags. I never have anything they consider dangerous, like pocket knives, etc. I take off my shoes, my belt, put electronics in a separate bin, take off my hat if I’m wearing one, take off any sunglasses, and coats. I do all of these things rather expeditiously so as not to hold up the line any more than necessary.

The only things in my luggage are my clothes, toothbrush, hairbrush, comb, books, papers, electric razor, cords to my smartphone and laptop or tablet, HDMI cable, earbuds, and papers–and sometimes my shoe trees and a small umbrella. All of which fit in two bags of luggage. No matter if I’m in jeans, shorts, or office casual attire, here are some of the excuses for a pat down I’ve gotten over the years:

“Have you ever had metal surgically implanted in your leg? Because something is showing up there, and I need to pat you down.” (I’ve never had surgery.)

“Are you wearing any jewelry around your neck? Something is showing up there on the scan so I need to pat you down.” (I don’t wear necklaces.)

“I need you to step back in the scanner so we can scan you again. This time I need you to pull your pants up higher because they’re too low.” Then I got a pat down after the second scan anyway just this week. And I never wear my pants sagging as he implied. In fact, sagging pants is one of my pet peeves, so I was insulted. Apparently, he wasn’t aware that if you take the belt off your pants they will go down slightly unless they’re skin tight. However, my jeans were around my waist and he wanted me to pull them above my belly button, as if that’s normal.

“Are your pockets empty? It looks like there’s something in your pocket(s) on the scan, so I’ll have to pat you down.” (I always empty my pants and shirt pockets.)

If I were only patted down once or twice in between extended periods of time, I wouldn’t think anything of it. But when it happens nearly every time I go through an airport, it makes me suspicious, because I don’t like being targeted or touched by the TSA–which ticks me off. I’ve never committed a crime, never been arrested, never gotten a traffic ticket, and I’m an African American who has never been profiled by the police. And I love America. So what’s up with the TSA?

Harry A. Gaylord

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