Southwest accused of 'racist assumption' after suspecting mix-race family of human trafficking
Southwest Airlines planes - Shutterstock

On Thursday, The Denver Post reported that a woman flying from San Jose to Denver was stopped by airline personnel and police, who she claims profiled her as a possible human trafficker because her daughter was not the same race.

"Mary MacCarthy, who is white, and her 10-year-old daughter, who is Black, flew from San Jose, California, to Denver on Oct. 22 to be with family after the sudden death of MacCarthy's older brother the night before. When they arrived in Denver, they were met on the jet bridge by a Southwest Airlines employee and two Denver police officers," reported Elise Schmelzer.

"The two officers started talking to MacCarthy and her daughter, Moira, separately. The officers wanted to question MacCarthy and her daughter because a Southwest Airlines employee had reported them as suspicious and MacCarthy as a potential human trafficker, according to a Denver police report and MacCarthy's account."

MacCarthy is enraged at the incident, which reportedly reduced her daughter to tears. "This is the type of situation that mixed-race families and families of color face all the time while traveling," she said.

According to the report, the original complaint was made by a flight attendant on their Southwest Airlines flight, who "told police she was suspicious because the two were the last to board the plane and because MacCarthy asked other passengers to move so her daughter could sit next to her ... [and] also reported that the pair did not speak during the flight."

Federal law places restrictions on racial profiling, but these rules have often exempted air travel due to longstanding concerns about international terrorism.

This incident occurred as other flight crews around the country have had to deal with an outbreak of violent and racist behavior from passengers, often triggered in part by disputes over raw story COVID-19 mask disputes.