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Racial Profiling: Why Eight UAE Students Were Kicked Off a Flight

The students were going to a Conference called “Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Leaders,” but one passenger worried that they could be terrorists and alerted the flight crew.
 
 
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 The skies weren’t too friendly in Charlotte, NC, on Thanksgiving.

Eight college students were identified as possible terrorist threats and taken off flight 1768 in Charlotte, which was headed for Washington DC. The students were going to a  Conference called “Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Leaders,” which was meant to help them prepare for their future careers.

However, according to  news reports, one passenger on the plane worried that these students could be terrorists and alerted the flight crew.

So, the flight was delayed as security entered the plane and asked the students about their country of origin and whether they had any military training. The students were from the United Arab Emirates, and after they were escorted off the plane, their bags were rescreened. Five hours later, they were cleared to re-board, and the flight  landed safely at Reagan International Airport in DC at 10:20 PM.

The students interviewed said they were  “not blaming the police” because they were just “doing their jobs.” The DC Council on Islamic Relations plans to  “investigate.”

However, what this incident exposes are the assumptions and stereotypes that many still maintain post-9/11. Of course, we want our airports to take reasonable security precautions after said tragedy, but it’s disturbing how fear controls us.

I don’t remember this same climate of fear toward young white males after the Oklahoma City bombing committed by native-born white terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

But as we listen to political candidates and the media talk about “illegals” and “terrorists,” we scare ourselves with this fearful talk.  Individually, we need to examine our assumptions about others, but collectively we need to tell our politicians and media that we will not tolerate such divisive language and stereotypes.

Racial profiling, without question, attacks the core values of our democracy.

Glenn Hutchinson teaches writing at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., and volunteers with Center for New Community.

 
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