News (USA)

TSA dragged for using Black & queer slang in social media post about Bob the Drag Queen’s wigs

Bob the Drag Queen
Bob the Drag Queen Photo: Shutterstock

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is getting dragged – and not like that – online for an Instagram post about running a celebrity drag queen’s wigs separately through a scanner.

TSA wrote a post on Instagram full of references to RuPaul’s Drag Race after Bob the Drag Queen’s wigs were sent back to be scanned separately, which led to them being called out for appropriating African American Vernacular English (AAVE) on social media.

Related: RuPaul says Kobe Bryant was the “least expected” fan of “Drag Race”

This past Tuesday, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen tweeted that her wigs were being taken back by TSA for additional screening.

“Yall TSA man has removed my wig from the bag and it running it through the scanner by itself,” she tweeted.

TSA later wrote a post on Instagram that clearly referenced the incident even though Bob’s name doesn’t get mentioned. The post opened with “We heard you walked purse first through one of our security checkpoints,” and “purse first” is one of Bob’s famous catchphrases. The post used a picture that Bob posted to her Twitter account.

“No tea, no shade, and we sure hope you had a pleasant experience, but when it comes to security we do what needs to be done to keep you safe,” the post continued, adding that they needed to run the wigs to possibly “resolve an alarm.”

“Now, Shante, you can stay,” the post concluded. “Keep racking up them frequent flyer miles.”

TSA added hashtags that said it was all a reference to Drag Race, like #RuPaulDrag Race, #HBO, and #ShanteYouStay, which is what RuPaul says when she is saving a queen from elimination. TSA posted it with a picture of some wigs in a scanning tray.

“Why would you think this was ok to post @TSA,” wrote fashion archivist Rashida Renée Ward on Twitter with a screenshot of the post. The responses to her post showed where people were coming from, criticizing both TSA’s use of AAVE as appropriative and the picture of wigs as disrespectful to Black women.

Some of the commenters debated whether the slang used in the TSA post can really be said to come from drag culture or Black culture. While it appears that whoever wrote the TSA post was thinking about Drag Race, a lot of vocabulary associated with the show has its roots in Black culture, ballroom culture (which is predominantly Black, latin, trans, and queer), and the show’s diverse cast.

For example, “shante you stay” is an expression Drag Race fans have been hearing for over a decade on the show, which RuPaul first used in her 1993 song “Supermodel” and that she probably got from the 1980s ballroom documentary Paris is Burning, which has a scene where a Black person shouts “Shante! Shante! Shante!” in the way that “Fierce!” gets used today.

And where the word came from before then isn’t quite known – internet theories on its origin range from the French word “Enchanté.e” (“enchanted”) to hip hop musician Roxanne Shanté.

TSA later apologized in an Instagram story: “We apologize for the insensitivity of this post. Our goal is to provide interesting content that helps clarify our checkpoint procedures, but this one missed the mark. We will continue to work to engage and inform the traveling public going forward.”

As for Bob, she said that TSA ran the wig through the scanner twice, taking off the pins. She got her wigs back and appeared to be amused by the incident.

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