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A white mother is accusing flight attendants of profiling her and her black 10-year-old daughter after they were stopped by police officers on suspicion of possible human trafficking at a Denver airport while departing a Southwest Airlines flight.
Mary MacCarthy, 42, booked last-minute seats on the flight after her brother died suddenly the night before. The single mother and her 10-year-old daughter Moira were stopped and confronted by a Southwest staffer at Denver Internation Airport after being flagged for human trafficking due to suspicious behavior on the flight. Armed police officers flanked the staffer per protocol as they pulled the mother and daughter aside.
The family lives in Los Angeles where the mother works in high tech. She videoed part of the confrontation on her phone and it does not appear that the staffer or the police were out of line. They were very courteous and professional during the incident. The officers and staffer explained why they were being questioned. It is not uncommon for someone to be pulled aside if attendants feel there is any possibility of something going on. It’s what they are trained to do.
The mother claims that both she and her daughter were traumatized by the incident and they have now retained an attorney in the matter. The daughter can be heard sobbing in the background of the video.
“It’s okay sweetheart,” the mother told her daughter in the three-minute video. She can also be heard dramatically stating, “I have a daughter, who has unfortunately already been traumatized by police in her life.”
(Video Credit: The Daily Mail)
Officers told the mother that a Southwest Airlines employee reported her for suspicious behavior. A police report that was filed after the incident purportedly indicates that both the airline and police suspected her of “trafficking” the child.
MacCarthy took great offense to the allegation and blasted both the airline and the Denver Police Department over it. She called the anonymous staffer’s suspicion a “racist assumption about a mixed-race family.” There was no indication during the incident that it had anything to do with race but the mother is spinning it as such and is denigrating the police in the process.
“The day of the incident, it was clear to me that my family was racially profiled,” MacCarthy proclaimed in an interview with the Daily Mail. “The airline and police need to be held accountable. They accosted us.” It’s difficult to understand how a few questions being asked equates to being accosted.
The flight was from San Jose to Mile-High City where MacCarthy’s brother had passed away.
“We booked a flight late last night for the three of us because my brother, who’s 46, went to the hospital and died 20 minutes later,” she stated. “He was like a father to her.”
(Video Credit: Denver7 – The Denver Channel)
Suspicions were reportedly aroused because the mother and daughter were the last two to board the plane and because the mother asked other passengers to switch seats so she could sit with her daughter. The attendant who reported the incident said that the mother and daughter also didn’t speak to one another during the entire flight. The mother contends she was sleeping during the flight and says the accusation is untrue.
The mother and daughter were detained once they landed at Denver International Airport. Out of an abundance of caution they were then questioned.
“The officer told me, ‘We’re talking to you because you were reported to the pilot for suspicious behavior,'” MacCarthy said. “I immediately knew what was going on.”
After a few questions, the mother and daughter were sent on their way. They were not arrested or even touched by the police in the encounter.
“This is the type of situation that mixed-race families and families of color face all the time while traveling,” MacCarthy asserted after the questioning.
“The whole thing is based on what I believe to be a racist assumption about a mixed-race family,” she declared.
MacCarthy received a follow-up call on the incident from the police ten days later on November 1. She was angered over it. The mother is claiming that the police said she had been reported for “suspicious behavior” before she boarded the plane in San Jose and that they had “boarded the flight suspiciously late.” Neither of those statements reportedly appears in the 23-page police report.
“It was the worst day of my daughter’s life,” MacCarthy dramatically stated. She is demanding a written apology from the airline and the immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets.
“I have yet to be contacted by Southwest with anything more than an automated response. And at this point, I want Southwest Airlines to be held accountable for having racially profiled my family on what was objectively already the worst day of my daughter’s life,” MacCarthy said.
She is also seeking additional compensation for “the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten-year-old black girl.”
A lawsuit has not been filed but is still a possibility.
Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz commented, “We were disheartened to learn of this mother’s account when traveling with her daughter. We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us. Our Employees undergo robust training on Human Trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of customers who travel with us each year.”
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