Lakshman Rajagopal, an Indian American professor at Iowa State University, was accused of child trafficking June 20, as he and his toddler son – who is Caucasian – attempted to board a flight in Atlanta, Georgia.
Professor Lakshman Rajagopal had just arrived in Atlanta after a 6 AM flight from Des Moines when he was stopped by Delta employees. He says he was told child trafficking has been a big issue and airlines have been told to keep an eye out for possible cases. Rajagopal, a single father, says a flight attendant alerted the pilot of suspicious activity because he looked nervous when he requested a different seat for more room for him and his toddler son. The pilot then called the Atlanta airport where two employees were waiting on his arrival and questioned him. Rajagopal described the interview questions, “We have some questions for you, who’s this, who are you traveling with and where are you going? What’s your relationship with this child? I said, well he’s my son.”
He describes his experience with Delta as humiliating. “After my experience, I don’t know if I want to fly Delta. Also, on the 28th I have to go back to Iowa and I’m kind of scared to go to Iowa and scared to go on a flight to Iowa.” Rajagopal added, I’m not against Delta but I feel like this is a good example with how people still have a problem with color. I didn’t think my behavior was suspicious because at 6 AM, with a toddler, a single parent, how am I supposed to look? I don’t think I’d look excited,” he said.
Delta has reached out the Professor Rajagopal and offered him a five-hundred dollar voucher to use within a year. They’ve also said they will use his situation as a way to improve their security training with employees. Rajagopal said, “I told them if I was white, this would not be a problem because a white person with a white child would be fine.”