A White mother from Los Angeles says she was questioned about human trafficking while she was traveling with her biracial daughter.
Mary MacCarthy says she was questioned by two police officers and a Southwest Airlines employee after flying from San Jose to Denver. She believes she would not have been questioned if her 10-year-old daughter, Moira, was White.
MacCarthy said she booked the tickets last minute and asked flight attendants if she could get a seat next to her daughter. The flight attendants declined to help but she was able to switch seats with passengers who were understanding.
When they landed, the employee and two officers were waiting to speak with MacCarthy, who recorded the interaction. A Southwest employee can be heard saying flight attendants were concerned about her behavior when she boarded the flight. Her daughter can be heard crying in the background but is not seen on camera.
“I was absolutely certain that we had been racially profiled but I have other things to worry about. I didn’t give it too much thought beyond that until 10 days later,” she told CBS LA.
She said that’s when she received a call from the Denver Police Department following up on a claim that she’s a human trafficker. CBS LA obtained a police report that claimed she acted nervously, did not speak to her daughter on the flight and prevented her daughter from speaking with the flight crew. MacCarthy said the claims were untrue.
“They saw a white mother, they saw a child with a different skin tone and said that’s suspicious, that could be a crime and we’re reporting that. That’s not OK. This is the United States of America in 2021,” she said.
Denver police did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.
In a statement, a Southwest spokesperson said the airline focuses on creating an”inclusive” environment for customers and trains employees on human trafficking, and they were looking into MacCarthy’s report.
“We were disheartened to learn of this mother’s account when traveling with her daughter,” the spokesperson said Friday. “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.”