I’m the most magnanimous motherfucker you know.

There are only so many times you can laugh it off when a stranger indicates they think you want to kill children.

We sort of take for granted the vast indignities associated with the TSA’s version of security theater at our airports. It’s absurd, and demonstrably ineffective, but nobody wants to miss their flight over the stupidity, so we all just play along with it.

The thing is, for those of us who fly while brown, there is always someone in the security line with us who thinks we’re a threat. In my experience, it’s seldom the TSA agents themselves. They’re either well-trained enough, or too bored, to actually do much other than constantly “randomly” picking out brown folks for a secondary screening. They won’t personally accost us because it would slow down the line.

But our fellow passengers? They feel like they’re being heroic when they carefully scrutinize my iPhone charger in my bag. I’ve literally lost count of the number of times another guy (it’s always a man) in line asks me to account for the external battery pack I typically carry for my smartphone. These dudes want to be the hero who caught me in the TSA security line.


You have to think about what these people are saying when they scrutinize me, or every other brown person, in an airport security line. They’re clearly saying: I think you would kill me, and you, and all the people on this plane, including the children. Now, they never quite have the temerity to say it out loud. Instead, they just exchange that meaningful nod with the TSA agent, hoping to get me pulled out for a secondary screening.

And honestly, I’m pretty good-natured about it. I fly at least once a month, and they’re all round trips, so let’s call it maybe 26 flights a year—one every other week. Now imagine, if every other week a stranger said, “I think you intend to kill children.” Could you laugh it off three times in a row? Four? Eight? Because if you have the extraordinary patience to be able to ignore it, or laugh along, or quietly acquiesce to letting strangers indicate to your face that they think you’re secretly a duplicitous, lying, child murderer in waiting, then you’ll just be asked to do it again on your next flight.

I am particularly even-keeled by temperament, so I can endure as many as 12 consecutive accusations of intending to kill children before I get indignant. “I’m a father,” I might think. Or “I’m a New Yorker, how dare you think that of me?” Let alone, “I don’t even have a religion to be an extremist member of, and white supremacists are the most common terrorist killers in America anyway!” None of those responses are welcomed by the TSA.

So that one time in twelve that I get mad at the portentious nod from a fellow passenger, I just quietly fume and have my flight ruined, maybe my day ruined, by the awful injustice of it all. When that doesn’t work, I confront the reality that if I did actually articulate how furious I am, I would be the one kicked off, and not my horrible lying accusers.

And yet, I still fly, because I have to for my work and to accomplish the things I would like to achieve. I never lash out, even when I know that a stranger’s silent accusation of me is motivated by their malice and not even an attempt at protecting themselves. I never, ever get righteously angry about it and try to get them kicked off my flight, because that wouldn’t work anyway.

That’s why I’m the most magnanimous motherfucker you know. You’re welcome.

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