Profiling, from the front lines

Rohit Khare Rohit@KnowNow.com
Sat, 13 Oct 2001 09:40:47 -0700


Well, it's beginning. I'm writing aboard an Air Canada flight out of 
San Francisco. Every brown passenger was hand-searched. I'm OK with 
it for now, but I thought I'd share my facts.

You can find proper discussion across the net on "selectees", which 
is what you can become if you don't produce the silly 
ID-so-we-can-make-our-seat-license-money check. You can leave it at 
home, or refuse on principle, all it means is that you still get to 
board after a positive bag-match and hand-search carryons. Whatever 
any gate agent ever threatens you with, no Federal, state, or local 
regulation exists to forbid boarding without ID.

Except, as famously known, for the Captain's personal whim. 
Disobeying a crewmember is a Federal offense, but their violation of 
civil rights is a tort offense. Wheels of justice and all... AC 
recently deboarded a deaf muslim passenger who merely went to the 
lavatory while still on the ground. I quote from the Globe and Mail: 
"[his behavior] bothered the passengers". Said behavior being signing 
to his traveling companion that all was well.

I will also spare you the number of "real" holes in the security 
process. A laptop battery alone is a great concealer.

All I can report back to you is that there's nothing quite as 
unsettling as actually living through the moment where you, as an 
American citizen on a minor cross-border jaunt for the weekend, with 
your profile and FF status and college sweatshirt, are deemed worthy 
of having your underwear searched in front of the waiting, white 
masses.

I'm not angry; I'm not even sure it's unjust. Statistically, I'm 
afraid, it just makes sense. But in a war alert combined with FBI 
Skyfall mongering, rigidity sets in. A foolish consistency, as it 
were.

The selectee set for this fairly full flight was 1) all 3-4 "Indian" 
men; 2) 2-3 "dark" East Asians -- not the overtly Chinese, that I 
could see; and, frankly, most chillingly of all, a young woman 
wearing a "WAR IS MURDER" banner.

I felt more crushed for her rights than mine. She was sardonic and 
resigned about the civil liberties at stake, but a pierced lip and 
liberal heart, even with white skin, says there's freedom of 
expression, but no right of acceptance.

Just a data point.

Rohit