A white mother who was reported by Southwest Airlines staff as a possible human trafficker while flying with her multiracial daughter has filed a lawsuit against the airline for racial discrimination.
While traveling to her brother’s funeral two years ago, Mary MacCarthy was stopped by police when she arrived in Denver with her 10-year-old daughter. They told her that the mother had been accused of human trafficking by flight attendants.
In her case, which was submitted on Thursday to Denver Federal Court, she argues that the allegations were “based on a racist assumption about a mixed-race family.”
According to the lawsuit, Southwest flight attendants called the police from the air “for no reason other than the different color of her daughter’s skin from her own,” according to the airline.
The sole justification for the Southwest employee’s contact was the notion that Ms. MacCarthy’s daughter could not possible be her daughter because she is a multiracial child. There was no reason to suspect that Ms. MacCarthy was trafficking her daughter.
The flight attendant in question thought it was odd that MacCarthy had instructed her daughter not to speak to the flight crew, that the two had boarded at the last minute, that she had worked to obtain them seats together, that they didn’t converse during the journey, and that the duo had boarded the plane without prior notice.
At the time, MacCarthy, 42, revealed to People magazine that she had recently lost her 46-year-old brother to a blood clot, who had raised the daughter of a single mother like a father. After taking departure from Los Angeles, they quickly changed flights to connect in San Jose before continuing on to Denver.
She claimed that when a Southwest employee and Denver police stopped them as they deplaned, she was taken by surprise. The two were subjected to “extreme emotional distress” during “significant questioning,” which led MacCarthy’s daughter to tears, she said in the lawsuit.
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The experience was “extremely traumatic” for her daughter, according to MacCarthy, who sobbed all through it.
The girl “goes silent and does not speak about it” to this day whenever the incident is brought up, according to MacCarthy’s lawsuit.
The incident included a 10-year-old Black girl who was already having the worst day of her life due to a death in her family. “I want Southwest Airlines and the Denver police to be held accountable for what is undoubtedly a case of racial profiling,” MacCarthy said at the time. “An incident like this can leave a child scarred for life.”
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