I can’t tell you how terrifying it is to learn that a plane flying into an airport less than 30 minutes from your apartment — on Christmas morning, no less — has been targeted by a terrorist. It’s almost as frightening as learning that the kind of man that would put on an underwear bomb is getting medical treatment at the University you attend, minutes away from your home. But none of these things scare me more than how civil liberties, of the racial variety, have become expendable in the past week. Despite my fears, I fully reject racial profiling as a means to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil.
Race and nationality are simply inadequate as deterministic factors in gauging one’s criminality. People of many different races have committed acts of domestic and international terrorism or have been guilty of possessing weapons of mass destruction. As recent as 2003, a white man plead guilty to possessing a weapon of mass destruction.
Inside the home and storage facilities of William Krar, investigators found a sodium-cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands, more than a hundred explosives, half a million rounds of ammunition, dozens of illegal weapons, and a mound of white-supremacist and antigovernment literature.
Many people probably didn’t hear about this incident. And in a vast majority of the coverage I have seen, there was no mention of the racial or religious identity of the couple involved.
Yet, the recent coverage of Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab mentions, even stresses, his Nigerian identity as if it is related to his criminality. It’s pertinent to the facts to mention his point of departure, Nigeria. However, the harping on Abdulmutallab’s Nigerian identity has made the identifier “Nigerian,” in a matter of days, synonymous with terrorist.
It’s worth noting that our mass media usually doesn’t do this when reporting on suspects that are “Caucasian,” “American,” or “Christian” who are involved in acts of domestic terrorism. Three notable mass shootings were committed this year by Michael McLendon, Robert Stewart and George Sodini. Very little was mentioned about their race or faith in relation to their crimes.
And it shouldn’t have been.
Many of the same proponents of racial profiling would think it’s ridiculous for us to observe these 3 unique cases and conclude that all white males, for example, should be subject to additional surveillance in America because whiteness and maleness are factors the cases have in common. If we acknowledge that these associations are preposterous, we have to say the same for suspects of international terrorism. Further, few have acknowledged that racial profiling may have very well misdirected our energies regarding Abdulmutallab. Let’s face it: if we have followed public sentiment on racial profiling after 9/11 and made one’s brownness a factor in terrorist targeting, it might have contributed to why someone that looked like Abdulmutallab went under the radar.
What is clear at this point is that there is no evidence that racial profiling is effective at apprehending terrorists. What’s not to be missed is that our country would fare better using numerous factors in gauging criminality — that actually have to do with criminality. Warnings to the US authorities from people’s relatives come to mind.