“Abbu was always frustrated by my shalwared prancing. He said they made me look unprofessional and no one would take me seriously in the world. Much to his chagrin, I’ve just about made a uniform of them and the TSA takes me very seriously.
One particular instance sticks out and it happened to be when the both of us were traveling together. Security at LAX was exceptionally interested in my shalwar and dupatta, despite the body scanner coming back with nothing but intricate sindhi patterns weaved across yards of linen. Maybe that was it, they just wanted to grasp the cultures and stories that lay in the threads.
So after the scanner told them nothing, a TSA agent took it upon herself to dig deeper and proceeded to scrunch and shake my shalwar in hopes that a frayed edge might unravel and they could piece together the puzzle in their minds. When that gave them nothing, they took my dupatta and shook it out. Still nothing. So they reached higher and patted down my hair–which only prickled and frizzed in response.
After exhausting all their attempts to fit me in the picture they had pre-developed, they let me go and I huffed my way to the gate. This experience was nothing remotely close to the scrutiny and intimidation faced by many of my colleagues, friends, family members–but this was a microcosm of the ‘safety’ systems that interrogate and deem our bodies unsafe or threatening.
That is why I believe we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”