Mary MacCarthy: White Mom Sues Southwest for 'Blatant Racism' After Being Accused of Human Trafficking Her Black Daughter While Flying to Funeral

MacCarthy was in tears and provided explanations to the police, presenting identification to prove that Moira was her daughter.

A Caucasian mother, who was stopped by airport police and accused of human trafficking her mixed-race daughter, has filed a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines, alleging "blatant racism." Mary MacCarthy and her 10-year-old biological daughter Moira were flying to a funeral on October 22, 2021, following the unexpected death of Mary's brother.

However, a Southwest Airlines employee at Denver International Airport confronted MacCarthy, wrongly suspecting that her child, Moira, might be a victim of trafficking. MacCarthy is now seeking to bring about changes to Southwest Airlines' training and policies. She is also seeking compensation for emotional distress, mental anguish, and other related damages, as well as coverage for her legal fees.

Unnecessary Harassment

Mary MacCarthy
Mary MacCarthy with her biological black daughter Moira Twitter

According to the lawsuit filed in October 2021, Mary MacCarthy was on her way to her brother's funeral with her 10-year-old daughter, Moira, through the San Jose airport, when a Southwest airline employee made a wrong assumption about their relationship.

While still in the air, a Southwest employee called the Denver Police Department to "report MacCarthy for suspected child trafficking," according to the lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Colorado.

"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."

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines Pixabay

Two police officers met the mother and daughter on the jet bridge, questioned them, and then let them leave.

During the confrontation with officers, MacCarthy was in tears and provided explanations to the police, presenting identification to prove that Moira was her daughter. She was deeply shaken by the false accusation of child trafficking, as alleged in the lawsuit.

The family firmly claimed that the accusations were solely based on the difference in skin color between Mary and her daughter. They also emphasized that no questions were raised about their relationship during the flight by the attendants, making the incident even more distressing and unjust.

Traumatic Experience

The incident caused "extreme emotional distress," as mentioned in the lawsuit, and the family is seeking economic, compensatory, punitive, and exemplary damages. The police officers involved have not been named in the lawsuit as they were deemed polite and professional during the confrontation.

Mary MacCarthy
Mary MacCarthy with her daughter Moira Twitter

MacCarthy has accused Southwest Airlines of engaging in racial discrimination that violated their civil rights, claiming that the airline interfered with their contract due to race.

"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," she told Newsweek.

"It's a strange feeling to be on alert about your most basic behaviors with your child, and it's exhausting. As for Moira [who is now 12], she still clams up and doesn't want to talk about what happened."

MacCarthy's lawyer, David Lane, said the intention behind the lawsuit is to hold Southwest Airlines accountable and prompt the company to reevaluate its training and policies.

"In using racial profiling to cause the Denver police to stop innocent travelers, Southwest Airlines has attempted to address serious the criminal activity of sex-trafficking through use of a stereotypical, easy formula," he told Newsweek.

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines Pixabay

Southwest Airlines declined to comment on the ongoing legal proceedings, as per their response to Newsweek's inquiry.

In November 2021, the airline announced that it would carry out an internal probe. "We were disheartened to learn of this mother's account when traveling with her daughter," the airline said at the time.

Initially, Mary MacCarthy requested only an apology from Southwest Airlines, but she claimed that she never received one. The incident left her feeling "attacked" and deeply distressed by the interaction.