My #FlightPrivilegeChecklist

In response to Trump’s ban on travelers, immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, activists launched campaigns in the streets and in airports throughout the country in opposition.

On Friday, after a week of protests, interfaith prayer services and boycotts, federal judge James L. Robart issued a temporary block of Trump’s ban. Today, an appeals court dealt Trump’s ban another loss. But this fight is far from over, and Trump’s Twitter appears to indicate that he is willing to take his case to the Supreme Court. That means we must remain vigilant until we are dealt a permanent victory protecting the rights and due process of refugees, travelers and green card holders from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia.

Protesters nationwide are responding to the ban through creative activism and highlighting ways they have benefitted from a transit system that awards privileges based on identity categories—such as race, religion and national origin, among others. As a nod to feminist scholar Dr. Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege Checklist,” some travelers are using the hashtags #flightprivilegechecklist and #flightprivilegecheck to unpack their experiences of privilege during travel.

These lists follow McIntosh’s call for self-examination:

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group…I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined.”

McIntosh’s nuanced view of examining interacting identity factors, a concept called “intersectionality” (coined by law scholar Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw) makes it clear that other elements like ability, class and gender combine with race, religion and national origin to make up complex systems of power.

This is my #FlightPrivilegeChecklist.

TRAVELER ALERT. #nobannowall #flightprivilegechecklist Flying to NYC today. Because by dumb luck (not because of anything I earned. Just sheer chance) I was born white, on American soil, to an English-speaking Christian family, here’s a list of unearned privileges I’ll encounter today in transit. I did nothing to deserve them but I get them anyway:

-I can rest assured I will not be pulled out of line to be randomly searched without explanation. Through literally hundreds of flights in my life, this has never happened to me.

-I can expect that when I arrive in NYC, I will not be turned away because of my religion or nation.

-If the body scanner beeps, as it did just 5 minutes ago, I can expect that the TSA agent will not suspect I am a terrorist and will believe me when I show them the zipper pockets that set it off.

-I can expect a pleasant interchange with TSA agents who will smile at me, acknowledge me, and even offer to help or in some cases hug me if I appear upset.

-I can expect that the important safety announcements will be in my primary language so I can follow directions, and I don’t have to learn any other language to travel freely across much of the world because people learn English for me.

-If I choose, I can easily find a group of travelers/ sheriff/ TSA agent that look and sound like me and can expect they will listen to my concerns and answer my questions.

-Wearing a ratty backpack, casual clothes, and unkempt appearance, I can rest assured my appearance will not be seen as representative of my entire race, religion, or nationality.

-I can expect that my travel to another city for more opportunity will not be seen as manipulative, enterprising, or “abusing the system” or ungrateful, but a normal impulse for a fuller, better life.

-If I encounter an issue in transit, I can expect that a manager would hear my complaint without blaming my displeasure on my race, religion, or nationality.

-I can expect that people will smile and ask me friendly questions, assuming I travel for adventure and pleasure rather than escape or necessity.

-I can travel often, confident that my passport stamps and flight records will not be held as suspect for multiple stamps or entries. ADD MORE #flightprivilegechecklist #peggymac

What’s on yours?


Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer is the assistant director and chief of staff at St. Norbert College’s Cassandra Voss Center (CVC). A sister-center to the bell hooks Institute in Berea, KY, the CVC focuses on transformation through initiatives related to race, class, gender and identity.