I have read several articles, blogs, and opinions regarding racial profiling and airport security. There is outrage at both ends of the spectrum. Outrage from those who have boarded a plane to find a passenger who “looked” Arab who was not searched at the gate and the subsequent fear of flying with such a passenger. Outrage also from those who themselves looked Arab and must endure searches every time they wish to travel. The opinions I find most interesting, however, are those that begin with one set of principles and end with another.
These opinions begin with the morally superior attitude that racial profiling should not exist at all because it is wrong. This seems to me like a fairly strong conviction that would not easily be swayed. But they then proceed to realize that airport searches that are entirely random (the ones that search the feeble old white man, but let the nervous-looking swarthy man pass un-harassed) defeat the purpose of preventing hijackers. They decide that they would rather exist in a world where people who look a certain way are singled out on the assumption that they are doing something/have done something/are about to do something wrong, and land safely at their destination, than exist in a world where everyone is treated fairly and potentially die in a plane crash.
In the sense of innate self-preservation encoded into the genes of all successful species, I suppose keeping oneself alive at all costs is understandable.
But what kind of life is that? Think about what you truly believe to be right and wrong in this world. Is the prospect of your own death enough to change your deeply held beliefs? Plus, the presumption of guilt based on ancestry is a dangerous game. It stinks of Executive Order 9066, among other horrendous episodes of history. Learn from past mistakes, people… Pardon me for a moment while I call on one of the greats.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Is it even possible to listen to Dr. King’s speech and disagree? He did not add “except if they kinda look Arab because then maybe there might be a chance they would be statistically more likely to hijack an airplane.”
I would much rather die on an airplane, knowing that I had died in a world where the information on how to fly, build, crash, destroy, hijack an airplane was available to anyone with a library card (and library records untracked by the government), and in a world where everyone was judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, than be safely alive in a world where the reverse were true.
I’m not saying safety isn’t important, but I don’t think racial profiling is the answer. I agree with Kjell Wooding’s article on http://pintday.org regarding irrational censorship. Wooding had posted something about many of the possible ways a person could subdue, injure, or kill someone on an airplane using items that could easily get past airport security. His point was that the prevention of disasters did not lie in what could get onto a plane, but in never, under any circumstances, letting a hijacker into the cockpit. A response was sent to the head of his department at the university where he was studying (it should be noted that the original posting was in no way affiliated with the university) warning of Wooding’s possible danger, and recommending that he be investigated and that the university “arrive at some security decisions.”
Ignoring for a moment the fact that the reader missed the point of the article, I would still rather have something like this available on the internet for everyone to see than have it censored. If someone publicly details the weaknesses of a system in a forum accessible even to the creators of that very system, then the system itself gets stronger. If you lived in a castle surrounded by people who wanted nothing more than to break into your castle, you would welcome the daily newsletter landing in front of your drawbridge detailing exactly how they planned to get inside. If they tell you in advance that there’s a low spot over the north wall, you don’t complain that now ALL the hordes know there’s a low spot over the north wall, instead you set to work making that spot higher.
The people who are actually planning to be destructive aren’t the ones who are going to publish exactly how they are going to do it, so everyone should be glad that somebody IS going to publish it, and we should be glad that it’s legal to do so. Also on that note, if airport searches are limited to, or predominantly focused on people who look a certain way, wouldn’t those who were planning to be destructive choose someone else to carry out their nefarious plans? Like maybe that elderly white man…
So airport searches should either be entirely random, or based on actual evidence of a person’s actual character (legally obtained with the proper warrants and that person’s knowledge). Nobody exactly fits any profile, and my civil liberties are more important to me than my safety. The civil liberties of my fellow humans are also more important to me than the safety of my fellow humans.
Oh, and if you’re going to die in a horrible accident, it will be at the hands of your friendly neighborhood drunk driver. Statistically, anyway.
More from the greats:
Mahatma Gandhi: “Freedom is not worth having if it doesn't include the freedom of making mistakes.”
Kahil Gibron: “Life without liberty, is like body without a spirit.”
Benjamin Franklin: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it.”
Archibald Macleish: “What is freedom? Freedom is the right to choose: The right to create for yourself the alternatives of choice. Without the possibility of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.”
Martin Luther King Jr.: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of hatred.”