Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Which Racial Profling Rears Its Ugly Head

From all the way over here in England, I am curious to know how the airport security opt-out protest is going -- if you know, please tell me!

In the meantime, I found another blogger that is pretty interesting, Doug Terry over at In particular, I was reading this today, and while I don't agree with everything he says (there is a definite undercurrent of classism when he talks about the TSA agents, and I would not be comfortable with the government compiling our backgrounds into "badges"), there are two points that I think are really valid.

One: his analogy of security as "rings" around a threat. Rather than tightening just the most inner ring (airport security), it makes sense to work on the outer rings, the intelligence reports and background checks that could lead to red flags before a traveler ever gets near a plane.

Two: his idea of civilian training for air passengers. I think there would be enough people interested in a short, straightforward, fear-mongering-less training where they learn about how to spot potential problems in the airport. Our eyes and cell phone cameras ARE everywhere, and it makes sense to inform the public about specific things to look for, to involve them in their own safety. Otherwise, we are always fearing some vague threat from somewhere anonymous, and we lose our personal agency and sense of security.

One thing I want to be very clear about, though, is that the kind of profiling I endorse is VERY DIFFERENT from the racial profiling many people are espousing right now.

I am not interested in racial profiling, because I don't think it works in America (I know it is a large part of Israeli airport screenings, which I mention in an earlier post, but the ethnic divisions may be a bit more clear-cut in that situation -- never been there, don't know). We have not just Muslims, and not just Arabs, who have posed a threat, but plenty of disaffected Americans -- white people! -- and the Christmas Day not-really-a-bomber was Nigerian. If we are going to deeply fear Islam (which is stupid, frankly. It is as peaceful a religion as any other), we should note that it is not just Middle Easterners that practice it. Islam is a widespread religion throughout Asia, and parts of Russia, and east Africa, and there are also millions of converts elsewhere in the world. And, given the number of disaffected white Americans who have shown an interest in anti-American threats (Daveed Garterstein-Ross? Colleen LaRose?), it is ridiculous for any traveler to think that they should be given a special status because of their religion or skin color.

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