CNN political commentator Angela Rye allegedly subjected to intrusive TSA vaginal pat down

When I wore my hair natural in 2010 then again in September 2013, I realized that traveling with a ‘fro was a more than a causality of inconvenience. It was humiliating. Every time Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees ran its nasty blue glove colored hands through my hair, I felt profiled for being a black woman whose coils stretch toward the sky. I never saw non-black women’s hair searched in this way. This was not a unique experience; the TSA has since vowed to stop touching so many black women’s hair.

Because the TSA has a history with black women’s hair, it’s what I expected to see when CNN political analyst Angela Rye tweeted a video of a TSA agent. What I saw instead was a female TSA agent violating Rye with an intrusive vaginal pat down. The unnamed woman — no way to put this delicately — touched Rye’s vagina. Twice. In the 1:30 video, you can see the agent start with a “routine” pat down of her hair before her hands move down Rye’s back, under her arms, across her chest and down her upper body before reaching her vagina. 

“I fly several times a week and this has never happened, so it’s alarming,” Rye says. “I hope you can understand from the standpoint of what it shows on there, it was alarming.” 

The officer she asked to record the encounter can be heard making excuses with some story about having his butt patted down by TSA in St. Louis. To him, this is standard protocol. 

Rye is moved to tears when the video ends after the agent lifts her shape-forming wrap dress. Rye, a frequent commentator on CNN, tweeted the video knowing that it would get eyeballs because of who she is. Posting the video was her way of speaking out for those who’ve also been violated but lack her platform. According to Rye’s tweets, TSA Headquarters is aware of the video. She is demanding a statement from TSA that she will make public, but ultimately what she wants is for TSA to “fix the system.”

As with any experience a woman, especially a black woman, recounts as being horrific, the naysayers can’t wait to voice their opinions. Some commenters used it as an opportunity to get political about terrorists and Trump because that’s what weirdos do. Others had legitimate questions about whether or not she has TSA pre-check (she does) and why she didn’t request a private pat down (because she didn’t want to).

“Even offered to go back through AIT,” she tweeted as a follow-up. “They told me to get the pat down or be escorted out by police. Instead, the officer recorded TSA’s pat down and offered to file an incident report when it was finished. What she explained she would do in “back hand” pat down and the actual vaginal chop that occurred were diff. I would’ve preferred neither.”

A few women in response said private pat downs are much worse.

No one with any type of reasonable thinking skills will dispute that TSA is necessary for safety measures. But being an institution of necessity is not carte blanche for intrusive measures that nearly mirror sexual assault. What I saw looked identical to cavity searches. This type of normalized violation under the guise of “safety” is connected to how sexual assault and searches done by law enforcement have become accepted.

This Thanksgiving when I traveled home to Nashville, I wore my hair straight. It was not searched. I’m not sure if the results would’ve been the same if it was my ‘fro had been out. For a moment, I thought about if TSA had finally gotten its profiling problem together. But it appears that not only does TSA participate in racial-based profiling, it also allows the violation of women’s bodies.