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Southwest Airlines Actually Asked A Woman To Prove She Was Her Biracial Son’s Mother

Lindsay Gottlieb, the women’s basketball coach at UC Berkeley and mother to 1-year-old biracial son Jordan Martin, tweeted on May 28 about her experience with a Southwest Airlines employee at the Denver airport who demanded that she “prove” she was actually Jordan’s mother.

Gottlieb said that she was “appalled” and called the incident “demeaning and insensitive, not to mention inefficient.” She added, “She [the Southwest employee] said because we have [a] different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin color.”

Gottlieb told The Washington Post, “We had a passport that verified our son’s age and identity, and both parents were present. But still being pushed further to ‘prove’ that he was my son felt disrespectful and motivated by more than just concern for his well-being.”

Gottlieb has since used the incident to make a statement to the Associated Press about non-”traditional” families. “I felt that in this situation it was my responsibility to say ‘Hey, this isn’t OK,”’ she said. “I hope the coverage this has received can serve as a learning opportunity, and that all families—regardless of how ‘traditional’ they may or may not look—are treated with dignity and respect.”

Some, including Chrissy Teigen, have pointed out on Twitter since that the incident was likely a precaution for child trafficking.



However, some are still insistent that the incident is racially motivated, since it only seems to occur with children who look different from their parents (as Gottlieb pointed out in her original Tweets, another mother whose child had a different last name but was the same race had never been asked for proof).

According to Business Insider, Southwest has since apologized to Gottlieb in a statement, calling the moment a “coaching opportunity”—perhaps a reference to Gottlieb’s occupation.

Erica Kam is the Life Editor at Her Campus. She oversees the life, career, and news verticals on the site, including academics, experience, high school, money, work, and Her20s coverage. Over her six years at Her Campus, Erica has served in various editorial roles on the national team, including as the previous Culture Editor and as an editorial intern. She has also interned at Bustle Digital Group, where she covered entertainment news for Bustle and Elite Daily. She graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Barnard College, where she was the senior editor of Columbia and Barnard’s Her Campus chapter and a deputy copy editor for The Columbia Spectator. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her dissecting K-pop music videos for easter eggs and rereading Jane Austen novels. She also loves exploring her home, the best city in the world — and if you think that's not NYC, she's willing to fight you on it.