DARE TO ASK: Is racial profiling OK at airports?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
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.
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,
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
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."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers.