Racial Profiling Terrorists
Before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York and Washington D.C., the illegal practice of racial profiling by the police and others was morally distasteful. This practice involved detaining persons of a particular race or ethnicity based solely on the biased belief that they were more likely to be wanted criminals or in the process of committing a criminal act. The illegal practice had little to do with legitimate police investigative techniques. America is the process of condemning the illegal form of racial profiling as an investigative tool and identifying those persons guilty of the practice.
Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks have caused us to revisit the acceptability for racial profiling based on a specific circumstance. To date, our government investigation has indicated that the terrorists who launched the attack against the United States were all of similar ethnic origin and belonging to a particular secular religious group. From following the media reports you know that the suspected terrorists are probably followers of Osama Bin Laden his “al-Qaida” network and protected by an extreme Islamic religious group called the Taliban located in Afghanistan.
We are being told three weeks post-incident that there are probably more terrorists groups hiding out in the United States. They have been labeled as terrorist “cells” that are just waiting for an opportunity to strike, and those who have gone underground are called “sleepers.” The investigation has produced evidence of terrorist plans to strike other targets using a variety of means. All of this bad news has Americans on edge and fearful of more terrorist attacks. Let’s face it, there are terrorist suspects still at large in our country and we have declared war against them. The problem is we don’t know who the “them” are. Does this fear justify the right to arbitrarily detain those who appear to fit the profile? Persons fitting the racial profile have been pulled off of airplanes, trains, buses, and from other public places. Some of the detentions have been fruitful and detecting illegal status and forged documents but most have not.
What do the Terrorists Look Like?
The fear of terrorism is creating a new form of racial profiling where innocent Muslim people or people who appear to be of middle-eastern decent are being discriminated against or attacked. Unfortunately, many of these people have been targeted out of ignorance. Our only point of reference of what a terrorist looks like is what we’ve seen in the media. We’ve been told that they are Arabs, Afghans, Muslims, etc. These vague descriptions and observations are not enough to pass judgment against an entire race or an entire religion.
We are the most diverse nation in the World. We have every ethnicity and every religion being practiced here. America grew out of a desire for these basic freedoms. We don't dare repeat the same mistake we made following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Similar levels of fear existed causing the government to imprison thousands of persons of apparent Japanese decent. We regret that now.
What Should We Do?
So what policy do we follow as a nation? I think we stick with our system of laws and seek out the perpetrators of terrorism in our country and where they live in the World. I believe we must continue to support our commitment to individual civil rights. I think everyone should be treated equally as potential terrorist at key points of transportation or other high-profile public targets. I believe we should judge people based on their conduct and not by their ethnicity or religious belief. Obviously, these are not normal times but they will be again soon. We all need to be a little more patient and understanding as we all sort through this difficult time together. We cannot afford to throw away our system of laws and decency in response to terrorism.
If we do…they win.