Wearing the above shirt, designed by BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow, caused a “brown” man to be abused (even more than the rest of us usually are)
by TSA thugs and then yanked off a plane.
My wife and I arrived at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport to fly home to Phoenix after attending my wife’s grandfather’s funeral, flying via a layover in Atlanta on Delta #1176.
While at the gate, a Delta supervisor informed me my shirt had made numerous passengers and employees “very uncomfortable.”
I was then questioned by TSA about the significance and meaning of the shirt (“It’s mocking the security theater charade and over-reactions to terrorism by the general public — both of which we’re seeing right now, ironically.”) and was told I would be able to board the plane, but only after acquiescing to an additional security check of my and my wife’s belongings and changing my shirt (“It’s not you, it’s the shirt,” as noted in a tweet below). We would then be the very last two people to board the plane. I agreed to these stipulations.
Soon afterwards, the Delta manager pulled me aside again, this time accompanied by not only three TSA agents, but also multiple Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority transit police. I was questioned some more, our bags were searched, and the TSA agents were satisfied we had nothing suspicious and posed no threat. At this point, however, the Delta manager informed us the pilot had decided, regardless of the outcome of the multiple TSA screenings and my willingness to change shirts, that due to the discomfort my shirt had caused, my wife and I would not be allowed to board the aircraft.
Apparently, the fact that I was deemed not to be suspicious and we had no threatening objects in our baggage was irrelevant to Delta. Instead, the fact that someone had used their imagination to make the determination that I posed a threat was paramount. And appeasing those bigots by preventing us from flying was their preferred response.
. . . At this point, the transit police began to aggressively question us. I was asked where my brother lives (he was the one who gifted me the shirt). A bit surprised by the irrelevant question, I paused for a moment before answering. “You had to think about that one. How come?,” I’m asked. I explained he recently moved. “Where’d he move from?” “Michigan,” I respond. “Michigan, what’s that?,” she says. At this point, the main TSA agent who’d questioned me earlier interjects: “He said ‘Michigan’.” Unable to withhold my snark, I respond, “You’ve never heard of Michigan?”
This response did not please her partner, a transit cop named Mark. Mark grabbed his walkie-talkie and alerted his supervisor and requested that he be granted permission to question me in a private room. His justification?: “First he hesitated, then he gave a stupid answer.” Michigan, my friends, is a stupid answer. (As a lifelong Ohio State Buckeye fan, I suppose I could’ve already told you that.)
And then, he decided to drop any façade of fair treatment: the veil was lifted, this was about who I was and how I looked:
Tweet from Arijit:
Says Buffalo-Niagara transit police officer Mark, in requesting authority for additional interrogation: “He looks foreign.”
Another Arijit tweet:
Did I mention a Buffalo-Niagara transit cop aggressively asked me why my wife didn’t take my name? “WHY wouldn’t she?” Yeah, that happened.
In the world of NFTA transit police, women are the chattel of their husbands. And to indicate such, they must take their husbands’ names! My wife’s unwillingness to give in to this convention is clearly a sign of my swarthy suspicious character.
Eventually, after more questioning and being sniffed by drug-seeking dogs, we were rebooked on a flight the following morning at 7 am.
Delta enabling this treatment is icky stuff.
And a call to action: If you’re traveling, consider going as Arjit did, with this emblem front and center. The shirt’s no longer on sale, but you can print out the design and tape it to your back or chest. If we all use our First Amendment rights, they’re less likely to be yanked from us.
Perhaps also print this out and bring it for the dummies at the TSA checkpoint so you can board your plane on the day you’re supposed to.
UPDATE Wed Aug 22, 2012 by TSA News Editor: The student, Arijit Guha, blames Delta, not the TSA. Delta has issued this statement:
“Safety and security will always be our first priority and most fundamental obligation. Delta doesn’t discriminate or condone discrimination of any kind against our employees or customers.”