A white mom is suing Southwest Airlines, claiming it accused her of trafficking her 10-year-old biracial daughter, documents obtained by Insider show.
Mary MacCarthy, of Los Angeles, filed the suit in Colorado Thursday (August 1), citing that she and her biracial daughter, Moira, were “racially profiled” by a Southwest Airlines flight attendant on a flight from San Jose, California, to Denver on October 22, 2021.
The lawsuit states that police officials from the Denver Police Department and a Southwest employee stopped the mom and her biracial daughter, who were traveling to Denver for MacCarthy’s brother’s funeral, upon arrival on suspicion of child trafficking.
“There was no basis to believe that Ms. MacCarthy was trafficking her daughter,” the lawsuit states.
“The only basis for the Southwest employee’s call was the belief that Ms. MacCarthy’s daughter could not possibly be her daughter because she is a biracial child.”
During police questioning, Moira began to “break down in tears.”
The mother-daughter duo was eventually let go, but McCarthy says the airline displayed “blatant racism,” which caused her then 10-year-old daughter “extreme emotional distress.”
According to a police report obtained by Insider, the Southwest flight attendant informed officials that the mom and her biracial daughter” did not talk during the flight,” which was odd for her. Also, “the mom did not allow the child to talk to the flight crew.”
McCarthy refuted these claims, saying her daughter spent much of the flight listening to an audiobook and that they did have a conversation during the trip.
“The Southwest employee on the plane reported Plaintiff MacCarthy to the police without any conversation or contact with either Plaintiff, which would have raised suspicions in the mind of a reasonable person.”
A lawyer for MacCarthy, David Lane, said the purpose of the lawsuit is to hold Southwest Airlines accountable and for it to re-examine its training and policies regarding potential human trafficking.
In an interview with Newsweek, McCarthy said: “To this day, when Moira and I are out in public — and especially at airports or on planes — I’m hyperaware that we might be judged and reported for any interaction we have with each other.”
“It’s a strange feeling to be on alert about your most basic behaviors with your child, and it’s exhausting. As for Moira, she still clams up and doesn’t want to talk about what happened,” she added.
The mother is seeking unspecified compensatory damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, and more, along with legal fees.
Southwest did not respond to requests for comments, citing that it does not discuss pending litigation.