A White mother has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Southwest Airlines after she was accused of human trafficking when she was discovered with her 10-year-old Black daughter, CNN reports.
The incident took place in October 2021 when Mary MacCarthy was traveling from California to Denver with her daughter to attend her brother’s funeral.
“Unbeknownst to Ms. MacCarthy, while they were in the air, a Southwest employee called the Denver Police Department to report Ms. MacCarthy for suspected child trafficking for no reason other than the different color of her daughter’s skin from her own,” the suit alleges.
MacCarthy claims that she and her child were confronted by Denver law enforcement as they walked down the jet bridge.
“The officers began questioning Ms. MacCarthy and made it clear that they were given the racially charged information that Ms. MacCarthy’s daughter was possibly being trafficked by her simply because Ms. MacCarthy is White and her daughter is Black, “the suit states.
“After significant questioning, during which Ms. MacCarthy’s daughter began to break down in tears, Ms. MacCarthy was eventually allowed to leave by the officers, but not before this display of blatant racism by Southwest Airlines caused Ms. MacCarthy and her daughter extreme emotional distress,” the lawsuit continues.
Believing that she was going to receive more information about her brother’s death instead, MacCarthy was informed that an employee of the airline reported her as a possible human trafficker.
MacCarthy said that an already difficult day was further exacerbated by the trafficking allegations and her daughter has been dealing with trauma as a result of the incident.
“She just kind of clams up when we talk about it,” MacCarthy said.
Following the incident, MacCarthy demanded a written apology from the airline, a refund of the full price of their tickets, and “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving 10-year-old Black girl.”
In response to MacCarthy’s allegations, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said the company was ‘disheartened” by the incident.
“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,” Landson said at the time. “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.”
In the suit, MacCarthy is seeking an unspecified award for damages, which includes mental anguish, emotional distress, suffering, and inconvenience.
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