I had a post on stereotyping last year, which I subsequently withdrew since I wasn’t so sure anymore of how I felt towards it. I have lately been at a loss explaining exactly what my stand is, on Racial profiling, and I thought I’d give the discussion a fresh start. A CNN article today ran a familiar story, one that we have all heard before, of a plane that was diverted due to a ‘suspicious’ passenger. I didn’t have to search much to get exactly what I was looking for:
Shortly after landing, Loynes said, security officials boarded the plane and left with a man of “Middle Eastern descent.”
Apparently, he had crossed the security check on an employee bus, and authorities were not so sure if he was an employee or not. Now, I have every reason to suspect that this wasn’t the only reason the plane was diverted. Flying while brown is no cake walk these days, thanks to events that happened 6 years ago.
Now, there are two sides to this coin. One argument is based on the relevance of statistics, if any, and one based on pure xenophobia. My question is, over the last 5 years, if 95% of ‘terrorists’ have been of Middle-Eastern descent, i.e. Brown men aged 18-28, is it wrong to use this knowledge as one of your ‘attributes’, or must one ignore this fact every time ? Obviously, it is wrong if it is your only attribute for suspicion, but what if it is just one of your attributes ?
American suspicion of the brown man has definitely reached xenophobic levels, and it is terrible, personally speaking. But what if we were working for a security agency – Is it completely outrageous to suspect a chinese lady less than a brown man ?
Another interesting question, about our most recent ‘Indian terrorist’ – Kafeel Ahmed – who unsuccessfully tried to blow up his vehicle in the Glasgow airport. I am obviously enraged that this guy has bismirched the name of Bangalore, and our peaceful country of India. But if it wasn’t for stereotyping, I wouldn’t have to be ! So this leads to another question – should I be angrier about him bludgeoning the name of our country, or the people who will eventually associate me with him ?
And if not for using this fact about a Bangalorean terrorist for racial profiling, how exactly are security agencies supposed to handle this fact ? Surely it must count for something …or shouldn’t it ? At what point should it count, and who decides that ? If there are a hundred more Bangalorean terrorists, of course it’s a massive issue .. twenty more .. yes .. two more .. hmmm maybe…. if none more, i don’t think it should count at all. So is there some magic number here ? Some invisible threshold that I’m missing ?
At what point do statistics of racial/national involvement count ? Is it really that immoral ?
The line seems to be extremely thin…. and my opinion is unclear. Help me out here !
[ Update : Sharath has added on to this discussion as well ]