Because we ‘appear’ suspicious
A few days ago I wrote a short post on 9/11. I was tired and couldn’t summon the words to write how I feel about the attacks, how they have affected us all, so I simply recounted my memories of that day. Had I just stepped off a plane in the United States, I would have been able to quickly compose a long post about the suspicious looks I get every time I fly. The TSA agents’ treatment would have provoked a blog post out of me. It’s not only the scarf covering my hair, it’s my skin color, my nationality and my name. All which make me a possible threat to others.
I just came across a posting by a half-Arab, half-Jewish American blogger who was detained a few days ago and treated like a criminal because of her ethnicity. Her account brought tears to my eyes; she describes my worst nightmare and biggest fear. I’m always worried that racial profiling will lead to more than a random security check and marking someone’s boarding pass because of their name or ethnicity. I’m scared that I’d be held for questioning because some idiot decided to report me. Because the public announcement at airports urging people to say something if they see something doesn’t really explain what ‘suspicious behavior’ really is. Is it when a covered woman takes too long to order coffee? When a man is spotted washing up to perform his prayers? When someone is reading a thick book on the prophets?
My fears are not irrational. And here’s a story that proves that I have every right to worry. Mrs. Hebshi writes,
I sat down on the metal cot that hung off the wall. It had a thin, green vinyl mattress–mattress is a generous term–that offered no comfort. It was about a 6-by-10 cell, the concrete walls were painted a light yellow but were streaked with black dirt. The floor was some sort of stainless steel, and a stainless steel toilet that has probably never seen the good side of a scrubbing brush, instructed me to keep holding my stretched bladder as long as I could. Near the ceiling above the toilet there was a video camera.
Please take a few minutes to read her story: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit.