Tags: Why | Racial | Profiling | Doesn't | Work

Why Racial Profiling Doesn't Work

Wednesday, 03 August 2005 12:00 AM

The British certainly wouldn't look at me twice. They have announced that they will "not waste time searching old white ladies." Or even middle-age ones. They think they know better. I don't.

There are at least three good reasons to search "old white ladies" like me.

The first, and by far the most important, is because the South Asian man behind me in line will also be searched, but at least he will see that he isn't the only one.

If I'm not complaining, why should he? If I'm willing to put up with it, why shouldn't he?

The injury of racial profiling, particularly at this point in time, is that it alienates the very people whose cooperation is most desperately needed if terrorism is to be stopped. The Muslim community in Britain has denounced terrorism – its religious and political leaders have met with government and security officials. But you can't ask a community to cooperate with the government and then turn around and single them out for a special burden and expect that cooperation to be unaffected.

It may be true that 100 percent of the terrorists are Muslims who look a certain way, but it is also true that 99.9 percent of all Muslims who look that way are not terrorists and deserve to be treated with the same respect as "white ladies" like me. To fail to recognize that is to invite the very alienation that is feeding the violence.

If you want people to help in the effort to stop terrorism, you don't start by putting them in a separate line that isolates them as different, as the enemy, as part of a group that can't be trusted as much as the rest of us are. You don't fight alienation by feeding it.

The second reason is the obvious one. Terrorists aren't stupid. If you are only searching Muslim men, they'll find a woman. If you are only searching young people, they'll find an old person. Everyone was searching airports, so they hit subways. Search public buses, and they can hit private tour buses. Announce who you are going to search, and you're also announcing who you are NOT going to search.

The third reason is the "checks and balances" that are provided when you search the powerful, as well as the powerless. The search I was subject to at Wichita was, frankly, less intrusive than the one last year at Newark because people like me did complain. The young Muslim woman standing behind me in line is probably not a syndicated columnist who can talk to the head of security about just how far you need to go once you realize that a woman is wearing an underwire bra.

When the no-fly list turned up Ted Kennedy time and again, the procedure for making that list got changed. What good luck. If it were limited to Muslim names, there would never be a member of Congress on it. Better that it include a Kennedy.

Let's be honest: If there were a draft in America, those kids sent to Iraq would have had better protective equipment from the get-go, because there would have been powerful parents insisting on it. The only way checks and balances work is if everyone is treated the same way. It sounds simple, but obviously, it isn't.

The British were reportedly shocked to discover that the terrorists who have attacked their country are homegrown young Muslims. How could they be so alienated, they are asking themselves. Yet in meetings with the Muslim community to secure their assistance, they are discovering that racial profiling is feeding that alienation. What a surprise.

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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The British certainly wouldn't look at me twice. They have announced that they will "not waste time searching old white ladies." Or even middle-age ones. They think they know better. I don't. There are at least three good reasons to search "old white ladies" like me. ...
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Wednesday, 03 August 2005 12:00 AM
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