A couple of years ago I wrote that the Department of Homeland Security wants hotel desk clerks to snitch on guests as possible sex traffickers based on a set of behavior that could match that of plenty of guests.
To borrow from Jeff Foxworthy, ‘you might be a sex trafficker if…’ you frequently use of the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your room’s door; you have multiple computers, cell phones, and other technology; you have photography equipment; you pay with gift cards; you turn down housekeeping (‘make a green choice’).
Airline flight attendants are being asked to do the same thing, and I’ve written about cases like a husband and wife being detained by authorities because the woman was Asian and the man wasn’t so of course it must be sex trafficking.
American Airlines at the time said, “Out of an abundance of caution, our employees are trained to report any activity that is out of the ordinary.”
Southwest Airlines agents are too, and so the U.C. Berkeley women’s basketball coach was asked to prove her biracial one year son was hers prior to Denver – Oakland flight WN1808.
— Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) May 26, 2018
She showed her son’s passport but the Southwest ticket agent insisted on seeing the two of them together in a Facebook post, which the agent said was “federal law.”
The mother and child have different last names. The airline does require a birth certificate for children under two, but there’s no rule that airlines need to match the last name of children to their parents for domestic travel.
@SouthwestAir it was demeaning and insensitive, not to mention inefficient. Would have missed flight if it was not delayed. I would advise better training for employees to avoid this happening to others
— Lindsay Gottlieb (@CalCoachG) May 28, 2018
The problem with asking airline ticket agents to be on the lookout for child trafficking is that even with a quick course they don’t really know what they’re looking for and are likely to substitute their own prejudices, assumptions, and life experiences for actual data. In this case, in Denver, the agent appears to have thought the woman wasn’t the child’s mother because of her race.
And the problem with U.C. Berkeley coaches is that even when they’re being subjected to this sort of questioning, when they risk not being able to travel, and when they’re having their motherhood questioned, they lead with their own white privilege.
“I do feel like as a white female, with a position of privilege, and a platform where someone is going to listen, it is my responsibility to say, hey, this happened, this isn’t okay,” Gottlieb said in an interview with KPIX 5.