Racial profiling: Should airports use it to screen passengers?Racial profiling: Should airports use it to screen passengers?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If Congress were to approve any method of racial profiling they will have to answer a bunch of questions that will actually make them look blatantly racist more than helpful.

If a method is in place and I, for example, get pulled out of a line as a result of racial profiling they could argue that I- brown skinned, black hair, short, average weight- may be a person from the middle east. In fact, I have been told that many times before by friends and acquaintances.

However, I am Hispanic, a born American citizen, and a plain ol' teacher who is too scared of flying to even get in an airplane. Think about it: If I were to make a grievance the first thing that I would ask them is: What made you think that I was Middle Eastern? What makes my looks suspicious? Do I look dangerous or are you making me out to look dangerous?

Therefore, using racial profiling is fine and dandy if you keep it to yourself and not share what you think you will find in others. Sharing it and using it to make a choice seems to me more like open racial prejudice to someone prone to be profiled, like me.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aside from the idea behind racial profiling being blatantly against the ideals of equality upon which the United States was founded, the world has become too small and its people too interconnected for racial profiling to be seen as accurate.

Once upon a time it might have been realistic to assume that anyone of middle Eastern ancestry was a Muslim and was anti-American. As post #5 notes, the appearance of racial characteristics is far from foolproof in determining country of origin in the world today. People move from one country to another, people have mixed-race children, people choose a new name for themselves for any number of reasons.

Aside from all of the above, there have been captured and convicted terrorists who were born in the USA. Racial profiling would not have seen any reason to be concerned about those individuals. Post #9 and the reference to the Israeli method of profiling actions and characteristics would be more reliable, but would also take more effort than simply looking at superficial characteristics.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary problem with the phrase is the word "racial." In addition to racial profiling going against American ideals, it is also ineffective, especially since terrorist groups such as al Qaeda have made significant strides into recruiting people who do not "look" the part of a terrorist.

What we should do is profile like the Israelis do at all times in their airports. We often hear of law enforcement agencies establishing profiles of a serial killer or some other type of criminal; there is nothing unconstitutional about developing a profile of a suspicious person at the airport, a profile that has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, or religion. For example, the profile should include characteristics such as a passenger buying just a one-way ticket, using cash to pay, not carrying any baggage, country of origin/destination, etc. While someone might not like to be profiled simply because of the country he or she if from or because of his or her destination, we simply cannot afford to overlook such a significant sign.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Racial profiling is unfortunate; however given the present conflict between radical elements and western society, one cannot be too careful. Bullgatortail stated quite frankly that he felt more comfortable on a recent flight when a number of Muslim passengers were screened separately. Who among us can truthfully say that he/she would feel differently? Individual rights are sacred and should be protected; however there are times, sadly when those rights must reluctantly take a back seat to security. In those instances it is because the rights of others are also at stake--primarily the right to be safe from harm. Everyone agrees that ones rights are relative, not absolute. This is just another sad incident where necessity dictates that some rights must be compromised. Sad but necessary.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would argue that airport security should not use this.  The reason that I say this is that I do not believe that there is a good enough racial profile to use to determine which passengers should be screened.

There have been relatively few terrorist attacks or attempted attacks in the US.  This means that we do not have huge amounts of data as to what race is going to be most likely to conduct such attacks.  Therefore, if we only go after people who look Arab (which is hard enough to determine) we risk missing terrorists of other races.

So, my main problem with the racial profiling is practical.  I just don't think it can be effective because we don't know what race terrorists are likely to be.  There have to be better ways of profiling that we can use.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Racial profiling is already a fact of life in airports. Shortly after 9/11, I watched several large families of apparent Middle Eastern and/or Muslim descent (wearing burquas, keffiyehs, etc.) pulled aside for private screenings. Apparently, several of the women (and probably the men as well) were strip-searched. I have to admit that I felt safer when they boarded the airplane long after everyone else had been seated. Obviously, such conspicuous clothing is an unlikely choice for clever terrorists, but it's hard to argue the fact that most suspected terror suspects are of Middle Eastern descent.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Should they?  No.  Do they? Absolutely.  From a civil liberties viewpoint, this is as ridiculous as pulling someone over because they are a minority.  What police do is look for a criminal profile: an overt criminal act such as speeding or driving erratically, or they are tipped off to the description of a criminal.  This is criminal profiling though, as opposed to racial profiling, and I believe the former is absolutely justified and the latter, not at all.

Actions and beliefs do not have a single race.  Racial profiling in security, in my opinion, makes us no safer.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personally, in an ideal world I believe that racial profiling should not be used as it is a violation of civil liberties. However, I agree with other editors that it is already being used in a number of cases and not just in America, which is creating a situation where people belonging to certain ethnic minorities feel targetted and victimised. Also, I think I may tend towards feeling more secure and safe in the same situation that #4 describes. Therefore, the realist and pragmatist within me accepts that racial profiling is a reluctant necessity for an uncertain world.

justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There have been a lot of arguments presented here for selective screening of Arabs based on racial profiling. Just because 9/11 was the result of a group of Arab fundamentalists, it does not mean the next equivalent of 9/11 would also be due to them. Any statistician with even the most basic knowledge of the subject would be able to show that racial profiling is the most lazy method of law enforcement. It is the most primitive way of making the majority feel more secure and in no way can be justified.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think racial profiling is ineffective as a security against terroism. We have seen again and again that anyone can be a terrorist. It doesn't matter where a person is born, where they have lived, or what religion they are. Anyone could hold the same irrational ideas that terrorist harbor.
krcavnar | Student

An airport or police officer or any other official should not use racial profiling as a premise for searching or pulling someone over.  Is this done every day?  Yes.  I think everyone does a visual profile whenever they meet someone.  It is in our nature to use someone’s appearance to determine whether we will like someone, what we think about their social status, whether we trust someone.  The question is would you like to get on a plane with 5 or so people of Middle Eastern descent so close to the U.S. assassination of Osama Bin Laden?  What about those terrorists who don’t fit our image of a terrorist? The government should make procedures for adequate searches, inspections and investigations regardless of someone’s appearance or ancestry.