News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Racial profiling widespread at airport security?

From the today's New York Times:

More than 30 federal officers in an airport program intended to spot telltale mannerisms of potential terrorists say the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

In interviews and internal complaints, officers from the Transportation Security Administration’s “behavior detection” program at Logan International Airport in Boston asserted that passengers who fit certain profiles — Hispanics traveling to Miami, for instance, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward — are much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for “suspicious” behavior.

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look — if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic,” said one white officer, who along with four others spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity.

Just as it's impossible to identify a terrorist by sight, it's also impossible to discern the prejudices of the individual officers screening passengers. 

This report proves the system is working -- on two counts. First, we have not seen more 9-11s. Second, the racial profiling by individuals in the TSA system has been exposed. 

And for those who think minorities are the first place to look for terrorists, consider these individuals: Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski and Wade Michael Page, to name a few.

Also, if real terrorists know that grandmas or parents with small children will be given a pass at security screenings, that would be a green light to exhort these people into terrorist activities. 

Racial profiling isn't simply morally repugnant. It's also stupid.

However, it's astonishing to hear how incensed most mainstream Americans get when they are personally inconvenienced. It's OK for Joe Arpaio and his minions to run "sweeps" in Latino neighborhoods detaining anyone who they suspect of looking suspicious -- even when they are U.S. citizens. But when Non-Hispanic Whites get questioned at an airport, then it's a matter for the Supreme Court to stop the draconian TSA.

Most remarkably, the TSA is operating to protect the entire U.S. population from a proven terrorist threat. The only thing Joe Arpaio is protecting us from is a guy from Jalisco working at a car wash without a visa. 

Raul Ramos y Sanchez