What Is Racial Profiling?

As many of us already know, airports can be very stressful places. We need to check our bags, find our gates, and rush through security to catch our flights to distant places. Imagine the horror of being stopped and questioned for absolutely no reason and maybe even missing your plane. This exact scenario happens to numerous people every year simply because of their race or religion. In recent years, as immigration has grown, Americans have become increasingly weary of “foreigners”. This racist behavior has spilled into airports where racial profiling has come to an unprecedented high and harmless people are mistreated on the daily. Racial profiling is a xenophobic behavior that happens far too often in airports, particularly for Middle Easterners, and it is discriminatory, immoral, and unconstitutional.

9/11 Impacted More Than We Think

All Americans old enough to remember will never forget the infamous day, September 11, 2001. What we don’t often think about is how this day affected airport security. Before that traumatic day, blades and scissors and baseball bats were all permitted on flights. Private companies ran security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wasn’t even a thing yet. After 9/11, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act was passed, and the TSA was created. We could never fathom bringing blades and bats into airports today. We constantly feel the need to watch our behavior and appearance, so we don’t come across as suspicious. After arguably the largest terrorist attack on the United States, American airports became much stricter, scarier places.

September 11 also brought Americans into a new era of xenophobia. Americans promptly became suspicious of anyone remotely appearing to be from the Middle East; suddenly in their eyes, anyone could be a terrorist. The increase in immigration that came in the past decade has only catalyzed this discriminatory behavior. These two phenomena combined caused a massive increase in racial profiling in airports. Non-white people are questioned and investigated for no reason other than their race or religion. Eighty percent of people investigated are of color and 97% of people forcefully patted down are innocent. There is something wrong with these numbers; it is racial profiling.

Middle Easterners In Airports

The most discriminated group since the attacks on 9/11 is Middle Easterners. While a grossly traumatic event transpired in America at the hands of an Islamic terrorist group, this does not mean that all middle easterners or Islamic people that enter our nation are terrorists as well. This xenophobic behavior is cruel and immoral because it harms innocent, hardworking Americans who just happen to be from a different ethnic background. Racial profiling directed at Middle Easterners in airports grew to such an extreme that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a policy statement saying that passengers and their property should not be subjected to “inspection, search and/or detention solely because [the passengers] appear to be Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim; or solely because they speak Arabic, Farsi, or another foreign language; or solely because they speak with an accent that may lead you to believe they are Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim.” This so clearly shows us how much Middle Easterners suffer in airports because their ethnicity differs from the American norm.

Hasan Aldewachi is just one example out of numerous accounts of airport racism. He was detained after making it all the way into the airplane cabin for simply sending a text to his mother in Arabic. This clearly shows the immoral treatment of Middle Easterners in airports; if someone had messaged in English, they most likely would not have been detained. Despite his innocence, he was pulled off an airplane just for texting in a Middle Eastern language. Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from an airplane because of a phone call he made to his uncle in which he spoke Arabic. He was told that it was a security risk to “speak that language.” Once again, despite his complete innocence, he was mistreated for no reason other than being Middle Eastern. America is a nation of immigrants – it is supposedly a melting pot of culture. But now we are at the point where Middle Eastern people are being told not to speak their mother tongues simply because a terrorist happened to be from the same ethnicity.

It’s Legally Unsound

In addition to all the ethical reasons racial profiling is unwelcome, it is also illegal. It violates our constitutional right to equal protection under the law by subjecting people of different races to different (unjust) treatment in airports. In 2003, George W. Bush banned racial profiling, but the prohibition did not apply to national security investigations and covered only race — not religion, national origin or sexual orientation. Obviously, this ban isn’t very effective because of all the reasons for discrimination that it excludes. After the attacks on the Twin Towers, even the haphazard rule became obsolete and the federal government and law enforcement began to target immigrant people, alienating immigrants and causing fear. This fear leads to immigrants questioning why they should love a country that is supposed to accept them but doesn’t. Racial profiling goes against the founding document of the United States of America, but here we are in 2018 where it is still occurring.

Good News, It Can Be Stopped

Xenophobic tendencies and racial profiling in airports is an ongoing problem and we must put a stop to it because ethically, this cannot persist. We should limit the discretion of security personnel. By doing this, we can lower the number of pointless incidents where racially diverse individuals are detained and questioned in the airport. Another approach is to increase legislation banning racial profiling. Many states in the northeast still haven’t banned racial profiling completely — this is something that can be changed. There is something to be done about the xenophobia and racism in airports. They are already stressful places, especially for ethnically diverse people; they don’t need to be scary too.

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