parens binubus

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  • Thursday, April 12, 2007
    This is not Israel
    **** Disclaimer -- this post includes my thoughts during a class this morning. It does not purport to include any research or citations. I am sure some will want to provide me with statistics or a news stories in an attempt to convey that my thoughts are off-base. Have at it. These are my thoughts. ****

    I had my security/liberty class today. It had me absolutely squirming and frustrated. I am not really sure why I stayed quiet, and didn't go off in the presence of my classmates, but I sat in silent frustration, and am now ready to go off.

    Issue: Racial Profiling in the context of terrorism.

    We started off our conversation talking about Jerusalem. Point being - how comfortable would you be with racial profiling if you were in a place where suicide bombs -- the taking of lives -- is a daily reality. Where the threat is real, not imagined, and saving people's lives is a pressing need.

    Would it be okay for police to pay closer attention to Arab males between the ages of 15 and 35?

    My gut says yes. I am very sorry that many, many innocent people are going to be paid closer scrutiny. In our hypothetical, however, we were talking about legal and modest police activities. We weren't talking about rounding up all Arab males and shipping them off to Israel's version of Guantanamo. We were talking about police officers wandering over and saying, "how are you today?" if someone seems skittish. Perhaps increased traffic stops for this demographic. We were also talking about the reality of suicide bombers affecting a city on a regular basis. Over a length period of time.

    Then we somehow slide to Dearborn, Michigan -- where my professor says there is a very large Arab population, and then to any airport in the US. Somehow, the class [as a single unit] works to shift the same reasoning, the same principles, to the situation in America today without much apparent discomfort. The reasoning and principles being - if you are not only looking at race, and if you engage the community, keep them informed, if you put sunset provisions in place -- it is okay to focus police attentions on Arabs.

    BUT BUT BUT!!!

    There have been zero suicide bombers in Dearborn, Michigan. There is no "state of emergency," like in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, if you engage in racial profiling, you may have contact with say, 90% innocents and 10% potential terrorists. In Dearborn, Michigan, I believe you would have contact with 100% innocent people.

    In Jerusalem, the risk is taken from statistical facts as to past suicide bombers. In the United States, it's taken from fears which are extrapolated from one event. One event that happened 6 years ago.

    In 2002, were we "racially profiling" all white males in fear that another one would blow up another city building with a UHaul truck? Six years after Oklahoma City? The answer is no.

    So we're justifying these actions, which lead to the demonization of an entire segment of the US population, based on "what-ifs."

    I am hugely uncomfortable with this.

    Is the concern that we're going to end up just like Israel if we don't take these steps now? If we don't pull Arab-looking males over more often, we're going to have suicide bombers all over the place? Honestly, what's stopping that from happening right now? I get on buses in a major metropolitan area all the time, and there are no cops around. Same thing with trains, cafes, restaurants. There are many every-day targets - or what are targets in Israel - that are completely unprotected, and nothing is happening.

    I think it's because we are not Israel. Yes, 9/11 was a bad, bad day. But all indications show that it was years in the planning. It required a lot of resources. It served the purpose of providing a major shock, which was Al Qaeda's goal. I do not think that we can call our current situation a "state of emergency" and justify the categorical accusation and demonization of all persons with brown skin. Anymore than we could have 6 years before 9/11.

    I am sick of the fear. I see it as wholly unfounded. I am feeling no more inclined to be afraid of every Arab-looking man as a result of 9/11 than I was inclined to be afraid of every ex-military 20-something white male after Oklahoma City.

    Perhaps I would be more capable of fear, but it was killed in me in 2002 and 2003 when the "terror alerts" were persisently used as distractions from the Bush Administration's bullshit antics and its aftermath. And it's killed off again and again every time Bush and Cheney pull up the memories and horror of 9/11 to justify their abhorrent decisions and policies.

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    posted by Zuska @ 1:26 PM  
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