It's Back! Race Profiling in Airports

When the phenomenon of dwb (driving while black) was brought to the attention of the media, most black folks, in particular males, had experienced racial profiling. As did many other folks of color. Now racial profiling, particularly when it involves African Americans and Latinos, has been widely studied and denounced.

Last week I traveled via plane from the West Coast to the East Coast only nine days post 9-11. The trip was a harrowing experience, and before I boarded the plane I witnessed a number of incidents of racial profiling. Folks who were thought to be of Arab or South Asian descent were subjected to much greater scrutiny than those of apparent European descent. I witnessed these folks having their luggage routinely checked regardless of flight destination, while folks seemingly of European descent rarely if ever had their luggage checked.

Going through the metal detector for all of us of darker hues meant being subject to greater scrutiny. And, regardless of heritage or hue, those with turbans and headwraps were all but refused boarding and were subjected to long searches and pointed stares by a majority of the other travelers.

After arriving at my destination, I learned of a report of a Pakistani man being asked by a pilot to deboard the plane for which he had a ticket, as the crew did not feel safe with him on board. A young woman of East Indian descent described the stares she and an older Sikh couple received during their flight. And then I learned that a woman of African descent had been arrested simply because she was wearing a turban.

I also overheard white folks in airports talking about how they didn't look like terrorists, but "those" people did. It reminded me of the saying that the face(s) of terrorism are tantamount to Muslim and Arab faces or the saying that all folks of Italian descent are members of the Mafia.

Racial profiling is wrong. It was and is wrong when folks of African descent were racially profiled while driving, shopping and living, and it remains wrong to racially profile folks you think might are Muslim or Arab.

An attack against one is an attack against all, as Rev. Martin Niemoller said in 1945: "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

Examine your heart and mind and do not tolerate racial profiling even if it is not you who are being profiled. Speak up now.

Akilah Monifa is a regular contributor to AlterNet on issues of race and social justice.

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