Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

U.S. Airports Get Sikh Sensitive

by Staff


Tags: TSA, Sikh, Airport security screening, turban, TSA guidelines, Sikh cultural awareness training,

In preparation for the holiday travel season, some 43,000 TSA security screeners will undergo cultural awareness training to prevent Sikhs from being unfairly targeted at U.S. airports. The program designed in partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) coincides with TSA reforms to screening protocol. According to New America Media the TSA’s recent policy of singling out travelers wearing turbans and then requiring that all turbans be removed alarmed the Sikh community, which viewed the exposure as defacement and racial profiling. As of October 27th turbans now fall under the category of “baggy clothing” and, if it’s required, Sikh passengers can remove head coverings in private.

The educational training includes a video and poster available from SALDEF. The program’s approach is more than a little cheesy, especially the “dramatizations,” but it also proves to be enlightening; both because viewers will find themselves empathizing with Sikhs as they try and go about their days while overly paranoid citizens overreact, and with security officers, who must walk the fine line between civility and effectiveness.  –Anna Cynar