A white mother who was traveling with her Black daughter demands that Southwest Airlines apologize to her after she was accused of human trafficking her daughter.
Mary MacCarthy, 42, recalled the Oct. 22 incident that left her and her 10-year-old daughter Moira “traumatized.”
After discovering that Mary’s brother, Michael – who was like a father figure to her daughter, died unexpectedly at the age of 46 from a blood clot, the pair took a plane from Los Angeles to Denver with a layover in San Jose, Calif.
The single mom explained how, at first, they were unable to find seats together on the flight from San Jose to Denver.
She asked flight attendants if they could help her and her daughter find a pair of seats next to each other. “I said to the flight attendants, ‘We’re traveling for a funeral, my daughter’s just 10.'”
MacCarthy, a former TV reporter, retorted how the flight crew informed her to “just find two open seats.” To which she decided to see if anyone was willing to trade seats and the other passengers were accommodating.
Besides that, the flight seemed fine. But upon touchdown in Denver, MacCarthy revealed she was caught off guard when a Southwest Airlines employee and two police officers were waiting for the pair on the jet bridge.
“I was confronted by two armed police officers. One started speaking to me, the other to my daughter. I was really confused because they seemed to know our names,” she recalled.
MacCarthy recalled thinking that another member of her family had died, and that police were there to break the news.
But instead, they said they: “‘We’re here to talk to you because you and your daughter were reported as having suspicious behavior.’ At that point in my mind, it clicked that we had probably been profiled. I’ve been raising this girl for 10 years; she’s my biological daughter, and I knew things like this could happen.”
MacCarthy recorded the almost three-minute interaction with police and the Southwest employee. Moira can be heard crying in the background.
The employee informed MacCarthy in the clip how, “The flight attendants were just concerned about the behavior when you boarded the aircraft,” and that it was company policy to follow up on the claims.
The employee also said a flight attendant had alerted police of suspicious activity between the mom and daughter because they were the last people to board the flight and asked other passengers to switch seats.
MacCarthy said if she and Moira had the same skin color, this never would have been an issue. “I was upset about it because I was certain we had been racially profiled,” she recalled.
And then, MacCarthy revealed that 10 days after the incident, she got a call from the police saying that they were “following up on suspicions that I’m a human trafficker.”
Per police reports, the employee suspected her of human trafficking because the pair boarded the flight last-minute, and MacCarthy demanded that they sit next to each other. The employee also claimed, “the mom and daughter did not talk during the flight” and the mother “did not allow the child to talk to flight crew.”
MacCarthy denied the claims and also stated how she felt the human trafficking suspicion was completely out of left field, as police at the time weren’t transparent about the suspicious activity she was being accused of. She is now pursuing legal action.
“I want Southwest Airlines and the Denver police to be held accountable for what is undoubtedly a case of racial profiling involving a 10-year-old black girl who was already suffering the worst day in her life — a death in her family,” MacCarthy stated.
“An incident like this can scar a child for life,” said MacCarthy, who is currently searching for a therapist for her daughter. She also says she will “never set foot on a Southwest plane again.”
In a statement, Attorney David Lane explained, “Had the child been white, there is absolutely no doubt that this would never have occurred. Thus far, my investigation reveals no misconduct by the police as they were merely making an inquiry based upon a Southwest Airline’s complaint and they are allowed to investigate. It is the ‘Corporate Karen’ who is to blame for this. I have reached out to Southwest legal counsel and have heard nothing. This is a civil rights violation and absent some appropriate response by the airline, we will proceed to file in federal court.”
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