Because He Could
When I left for Cincinnati last week I flew out of Denver International Airport. I have been in over 100 commercial airports in the United States and some of the TSA agents at DIA are among the most power hungry I have encountered. I always fly with a container of dry powder – okay – it’s Metamucil – I know – TMI. Anyway, I never need to take it out of my bag, except when I am at the Denver airport.
Knowing it’ll be flagged, I place the orange container in one of the dog-dish bowls and put it through the x-ray machine. They pick it up – shake it to satisfy themselves it is a powder, and I’m on my way. On this day there were no bowls so I placed it at the top of my open purse, obvious to all. They stopped the x-ray machine and waited two minutes for someone to come and pick up my purse for “additional screening.” The guy sitting beside the x-ray machine said, “Oh never mind. It’s only Metamucil.” But the agent who came decided to make a show of the importance of searching my bag.
Mind you, to even get to this dedicated screening lane I submitted to interviews and fingerprint clearances with both CLEAR and TSA Pre-Check. Yet this one person decided he had to search my bag, the one with the dangerous Metamucil in it.
I said, “This is so frustrating. This is the only airport in the entire frippin’ nation that pulls a bag for Metamucil. The only one.” To which the TSA agent responded, “Ma’am, if you are going to cuss at me we can call my boss over and you will be in a heap of trouble. Do you want to get into that? Do you? Do you want to fly today or not? You’d better treat me with respect.”
All of this was spoken with a palpable condescension designed to bait me, pure and simple. He wanted to flex his power and pull me into a bigger conflict. Knowing I was in a position without power I said, “Just do your job.” I was livid.
The TSA agent treated me this way because he could. He was one of far too many power hungry men in positions of authority. In his book, In Sheep’s Clothing, Dr. George Simon says there are more power hungry abusers in the military, law enforcement, and the ministry than in any other profession. All three give men with weak ego structures the unchecked power they lack without their positional authority.
I said nothing more, took my bag and walked away. I was able to walk away because I was White and at a busy airport in Colorado, not Black on a quiet highway in rural Texas.
Sandra Bland’s response to the officer who arrested her was utterly and completely understandable. It was the response of a woman flabbergasted she was being treated so ridiculously. I do not know what happened in the jail, but I know what I saw on the arrest video – a Black woman showing justified frustration, initially expressed no more vociferously than I expressed my frustration to the TSA agent. While I was treated condescendingly, my civil rights were not violated. Ms. Bland’s were. This kind of behavior will not stop until we all show outrage and stop it. I do not care what color you are. This will not be a just society until we all realize Black Lives Matter!