Is racial profiling OK at airports?

May 08

Is it so wrong to racially profile people who are flying?

Lisa, white, Custar, Ohio
I would be nervous if I saw a couple of Middle-Eastern people get on my plane. I think we [whites] should be aware of how the profiling makes others feel, but those who fit the profile should also understand that at the moment it might just be a necessary evil.

Jason, Kiel, Germany
I shouldn’t be subject to racial profiling and harassment just to make xenophobic people like you feel safer.

KMW, 22, black/white male, Boston
[Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh was a white male in his 20s, so, given the pro-profiling notion, all white males in their 20s should be considered a serious threat to national security.
Dee, Cleveland
People are always complaining about how easy we [Muslims] are getting it. Well, we aren’t – we get harassed all the time. There . . . rejoice!
Karim, 27, Arab male,
Los Angeles

Experts say
What if conservative radio host Michael Smerconish, author of Flying Blind (which advocates racial profiling in airports), and Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and associate professor at the University of North Florida, got together for a nice chat on this?
Well, they didn’t. But we did interview them separately, so maybe the banter would go something like this:

Ahmed: “The fear is very legitimate, but we must acknowledge it’s a result of lack of knowledge. . . . The flying public should say something if they see something, but not if they see nothing.”
Smerconish: “Profiling is absolutely necessary. The FBI says Al-Qaeda is reconstituting itself . . . and their surnames aren’t Jones or Smerconish. There are still Arab extremists who threaten us. The common denominator of the 19 [Sept. 11] attackers remains constant.”
Ahmed: “If someone is suspicious-looking, yes, pull them aside. But if you simply see a person with a different color, or a beard, that’s diverting law enforcement from things of a genuine security concern. That’s counterproductive.”
Smerconish: “The blue-haired old lady out of Miami with a walker is undeserving of the same level of attention as Abdul flying in from Saudi Arabia. If that offends people, I’m sorry, but we need to use street-smarts and face the fact there are commonalities among those who threaten us.”
Ahmed: “Smerconish and others are exploiting our fears. . . . Law enforcement agrees profiling is the wrong way to go based on race. It should be based on suspicious behavior. The process now is so haphazard. Yes, I feel the stares. . . . If a local agent can detain you for hours because he didn’t like how you dressed that day, how have you been made safer?”
Smerconish: “Hey, when . . . bald suburban white guys like me start to threaten us, I’ll change my tune.”

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