Los Angeles Mother Sues Airline After Being Accused of Trafficking Her Biracial Daughter

A White Los Angeles mother has sued Southwest Airlines for racial discrimination after a company employee allegedly accused her of trafficking her mixed daughter during a trip.

According to ABC7 Los Angeles, Mary MacCarthy claims in the lawsuit that she and her then 10-year-old daughter were on their way to her brother’s funeral in October 2021 when police confronted them after landing at Denver International Airport. MacCarthy and her daughter had taken a plane from San Jose.

“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 lawsuit 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.”

According to MacCarthy, the officers informed her that a Southwest flight crew reported her after accusing the plaintiff of trafficking her biracial daughter. According to NBC News, the flight attendant got suspicious since the mother and daughter were the last passengers to enter the plane and wanted to trade seats with other passengers in order to sit together.

The flight attendant also stated that she did not observe MacCarthy and her daughter conversing during the flight, and that MacCarthy directed her daughter not to speak to the flight crew. However, MacCarthy stated that this was not the case.

The White mother stated that she went into “panic mode” after seeing the officers because she was afraid they would inform her of the death of another family member. She later discovered, however, that they had been approached for something else.

In a video of the confrontation, MacCarthy’s daughter can be heard crying. After a Southwest official emphasized that it was a mistake, the mother and girl were permitted to walk free. Despite being allowed to go, MacCarthy said a Denver police human trafficking unit investigator contacted her 10 days later to follow up on the suspected human trafficking case.

Southwest issued an apology and stated that it was investigating the situation, adding that its employees are trained in human trafficking. But, according to MacCarthy, the incident left her family “deeply traumatized by the assumption that just because we don’t have the same skin color, we’re involved in a very serious crime.”

“Before you call the police, stop and check your own possible biases … We should all be more educated than that and more sensitive now in 2021,” she added.

MacCarthy is seeking an unspecified award for damages, ABC7 Los Angeles reported. “Had this little girl been white there would have been not a raised eyebrow. So race was the only factor that triggered this call to the police,” her attorney, David Lane, also said at the time. “It’s Southwest Airlines that I have an issue with. And I think this is a civil rights violation because they are causing a paying customer of theirs to have to undergo the trauma of being stopped by the police in question like this, for no reason other than the race of Mary and that of her daughter.”


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