Why Did This Woman Have To Show Her Breast Pump To Airport Security?

Photo: Hemera Technologies/ Getty Images.
We're at a moment in the U.S. when people's twisted views of race frequently intersect with their sense of safety, in ways that are as misguided as they are ultimately damaging. What happened to Valarie Kaur a few days ago is only the latest in our national conversation about racism and racial profiling — a woman of color, on her way home for her son's birthday, was treated like a suspect of violence.

Kaur, a Sikh-American lawyer and interfaith activist, was boarding a plane to Los Angeles when a white man behind her in line raised concerns over her behavior. "I removed the luggage tag on my carry-on. It carried my breast pump, and I needed to make milk on the flight," she writes in a Facebook post. "The passenger behind me raised his voice... He asked why I removed the tag. I offered to explain, but he said he didn't want to know. Instead," she adds, "he told the other passengers in line."

A gate agent eventually arrived and refused to let Kaur board the plane unless she showed her what was in her carry-on bag. "Only then was I allowed to take my seat. All the passengers in first class watched and I smiled weakly to show them I wasn't a terrorist," she writes. She describes her complicated reaction — simultaneously uncomfortable and offended — clearly in the post, which makes it so obvious that the entire incident was unwarranted.

The fact that Kaur wanted to keep her breast pump with her during the flight adds another layer to her fellow passengers' offenses. It's already difficult to be a nursing mother, and, of course, the general treatment of women of color is even more maddening. But it's hard to find words that adequately describe the kind of frustration Kaur must have felt, having to explain that, no, she is not a terrorist, and that her breast pump is not a weapon, but she's just trying to go home and avoid the repercussions of pumping too infrequently.

The good news is, Kaur says, Delta quickly apologized via Twitter, and the other members of the flight crew were "truly professional and respectful." And she follows up her story with admirable poise and optimism: "I'm angry and shaken and sad. But I'm flying home for Kavi's first birthday tomorrow, and I know that the only social and political force powerful enough to fight hate is love, and I want to practice the loving response now."

Kaur ends with a question that she must have asked herself that day on the plane, but it's also one we could all ask ourselves: "What does revolutionary love look like in this moment?"

A few minutes ago, while waiting in line to board a #Delta flight home to LA, I removed the luggage tag on my carry-on....

Posted by Valarie Kaur on Wednesday, December 2, 2015

More from Trends