I’m, for one — I know it’s not politically correct to say it — I believe in racial and ethnic profiling. I think if you’re looking at people getting on an airplane and you have X amount of resources to get into it, you get at the targets, and not my wife. And I just think it’s something that should be looked into. The statement that’s made, it’s probably 90 percent true with some exceptions like the Murrah federal office building in my state, Oklahoma. Those people, they were not Muslims, they were not Middle Easterners. But when you hear that not all Middle Easterners or Muslims between the age of 20 and 35 are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims or Middle Easterners between the age of 20 and 35, that’s by and large true. –Senator James Inhofe, (R-OK)
When I was in the tenth grade, I had a friend who attended a Catholic high school about two miles from my public school. On occasion, several of my other friends and I used to walk the distance to go meet up with him. We thought nothing of the trek, other than the fact that we wished he’d gone to our school instead. One particular day, three of us made the journey to meet him for a game of basketball. We walked right up to the front gates, as we normally did, and waited for him. This time, one of the nuns came out of the front office to meet us. This was an unusual occurrence. Of the countless trips I’d made to see my friend, none of the nuns ever deigned to set foot outside for any reason.
The nun — all four feet of her — clenched her fists nervously and said in a rather standoffish tone that the three of us needed to wait across the street. I told her that we were waiting for a friend. Again, she told us to wait across the street for him. Rather than get into a bizarre argument over something quite minor, the three of us walked the 50 yards across the busy street. As soon as my foot met the cracked curb, three police cars– lights flashing and sirens blaring–rolled up right behind us. Six police officers hurriedly jumped out of their vehicles, and proceeded to throw us all against them. Trying to discern the reason why we were all being treated as if we had just robbed a bank, was a secondary thought to the sheer terror pulsing through my body. Was I going to jail? Why? What were we guilty of?
As it turned out, there were a few break-ins in the well kept neighborhood the school resided in. I reasoned that the nuns called the police as soon as we made our approach onto school grounds. After a few minutes of telling police who we were and why we were there, they let us go with a warning: Don’t come into this area until the suspects are apprehended.
I left, without my two friends, visibly shaken and angry. That was the first time I was profiled. As a 15 year old kid, just for going to see a friend of mine. For those who don’t know, there is this degrading sense of shame and anger in being profiled. Your rights as an American citizen are challenged, based upon some supposed method model of criminal activity. You fit the profile because you may be the same color– or speak the same language, or pray to the same God– as the intended targets. But you are a model citizen. You don’t have a criminal record. You do all of the right things. And you are still the target of some ill-conceived, comprehensive model of criminal behavior It made me sick. It makes me sick today.
My story is intended to illustrate a point. Last week Colleen Larose, better known now as “Jihad Jane” –was apprehended by authorities on suspicion of recruiting for terror organizations, and plotting to kill an artist in Sweden. Ms. Larose is a white woman with blond hair and blue eyes, far from the norm of what our perceived conception is of a terrorist.
Does this change the dynamic of profiling in the eyes of those wanting to do it? It should. Believe me, I want our country to be as safe as humanly possible. I don’t want to have to worry about nut jobs high-jacking airplanes, or exploding bombs on city buses. But in an unpredictable world where things are never what they seem, racial profiling is emblematic of our false attempts at weeding out true criminals and terrorists. It not only infringes upon our civil rights, it does not work nearly as well as its proponents believe. I could ask all of my readers what their idea of a terrorist looks like, and I’m sure I won’t get Colleen Larose. But that is the reality right now. So was Tim McVeigh. So was Ted Kaczynski. So was Adam Pearlman. So was Richard Reid. Maybe we should just profile everyone Senator Inhofe? I wonder how that would make some Americans feel? Would it make then feel as I did back in high school?
Racial profiling doesn’t catch criminals, it generates assumptions and spreads grievous generalities that in the long run, harm our society far more than terrorist ever could.
UPDATE: As of this post’s publication, a second woman has been arrested and charged in the Islamist conspiracy. “Jihad Jamie’s” arrest–in my opinion– further buffers the points I make in my post.