Racial and Ethnic Profiling
Racialand Ethnic Profiling
Racialand Ethnic Profiling
Overthe recent past, Muslims and individuals of South Asia and Arabdescent have been receiving much attention from the federal and statelaw enforcement agencies. In June 2002, the former United StatesAttorney General John Ashcroft announced that all men who hailed fromMuslim and Arab countries needed to report to government offices tohave their fingerprints taken for the purpose of identifying thoseamong that were involved in terrorism activity (Rudovsky, 2012). Thispaper will investigate both sides to the debate on whether or notracial profiling should be used in the fight against terror.
Thosewho argue that racial profiling should be used to fight terrorismmaintain that other methods have failed hence the government has torely on a person’s race or ethnicity as a starting point forverifying whether or not he/she is a terrorist. People who hold thispoint of view maintain that the perpetrators of the 9/11 terroristattack still managed to go through metal detectors without beingidentified. However, according to Malkin (2013), if the police hadrelied on racial profiling the Twin Towers might still be standing,and hundreds of lives could not have been lost. Malkin (2013) reportsthat a Phoenix FBI agent named Kenneth Williams had urged hissuperiors to grant his request to investigate some Muslim men whom hehad suspected of having enrolled in a United States flight school asa part of Al-Qaeda mission. However, William’s request was denied,and the reason given was that what he was recommending could haveamounted to discriminatory racial profiling. At the same time, theFBI Minneapolis office had unsuccessfully sought for a new piece ofevidence that would have helped them get a court warrant to searchthe suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui`s computer. This meansthat if the information in the hand of the Phoenix FBI agent Williamwas conveyed to his colleagues stationed at Minneapolis, the lattercould have secured that warrant that they desperately needed toexecute the search (Malkin, 2013).
Additionally,some people argue that racial profiling is reasonable. This isbecause the majority of those who have perpetrated terrorist attacksin America hail from Arab or Muslim countries. For example, thebombing of the Word Trade Center in 1993, the failed attempt tohijack 12 jet lines traveling from Asia to the United States, andSeptember 11, 2001, incident were all perpetrated by people who havetheir roots in Muslim countries (Nomani, 2012). Besides,organizations that pose the greatest danger to the safety ofAmericans are located in South-East Asia and the Middle East. Peoplewho hold this argument maintains that it would be unreasonable forthe government to spend its resources treating all people likepotential suspect yet its record shows that Muslims and Arabs havehigher chances of being terrorists compared to non-Muslims (Malkin,2012).
Someindividuals who support the government’s use of racial profiling inits operations of curbing terrorism argue that Israel employs thesame strategy and so far its efforts have ensured that its citizensare safe. The Israel Airline has a strict strategy for identifyingterrorists who may board the flights with the aim of causing havoc inthe country. The policy works by singling out all young Arabs andMuslims for extensive search procedures. Besides, the Israelofficials thoroughly check the travel documents and questionsindividuals who hold previous visas to countries that are known tohost many terrorist groups such as Lebanon. The initiative hasyielded positive results since despite the ongoing war in the MiddleEast, Israel has not experienced a major terrorist incident in overthirty years (Wagner, 2014).
Onthe other hand, those opposed to the use of racial profiling in thefight against terror argues that it is inaccurate in terms of whom ittargets.While many terrorist attacks in American have beenperpetrated by people from Arab and Muslim countries, there areseveral cases where non-Muslims have masterminded incidents that havecaused massive loss of human lives. Rudovsky (2012) gives examplesof incidents where the perpetrators of the terrorist attack wereneither Arabs nor Muslims. For instance, Richard the “shoe bomber”had no roots in Muslim countries since his father was Jamaican andhis mother was British (Rudovsky, 2012). The other example of aperson who had no root in an Arab or Muslim country yet heperpetrated terrorist attacks is John Walker Lindh who was anAmerican by birth (Rudovsky, 2012).
Besides,the use of racial profiling may compromise the war on terror. This isbecause after knowing that a person from Muslim countries is likelyto encounter more scrutiny from government officials, terroristorganizations can change their tactics and start relying on theirEuropean sympathizers. If this happens, efforts to tame terrorismwill be thwarted since almost everyone will become a suspect and thegovernment does not have the kind of resources that would warrant itto mount checkpoints to search almost all people (Rudovsky, 2012). This argument tries to demonstrate that although racial profiling hasyielded positive results so far, it may be ineffective in the futuresince terrorist are known to change their tactics to avoid detection.
Thereis also the argument that the strategy is counterproductive tointelligence-gathering efforts. The United States plays host to overone million Muslims. According to Rudovsky (2012), if one is toassume that out of the one million Muslims who reside in America,only a thousand are criminal. This means that 99.9% of the Muslimsliving in America are innocent yet they are presumed to be at risk ofcommitting terrorist activities (Rudovsky, 2012). Besides, accordingto Rudovsky (2012), out of the thousand individuals who were detainedfor violating the immigration laws in the aftermath of 9/11, only oneof them was charged with terrorist-related charges.
Also,some people who oppose the use of racial profiling as an approach forensuring the safety of American citizens argue that the strategy issusceptible to abuse. Rudovsky (2012) gives an example of a lawyerwho was wrongfully arrested for suspicion of being involved interror-related activities. This is as after his fingerprints wereerroneously matched to the ones in a bag of detonators collected byinvestigators in Madrid. As a result of lawyer Brandon Mayfieldreligion, the investigators who handled the case failed to reexamineother available pieces of evidence even if the Spanish police doubtedthe fingerprint findings. As a result of the wrongful arrest, thegovernment was forced to pay Brandon Mayfield $2 million (Rudovsky,2012).
Afterinvestigating both sides to the debate, I am convinced that racialprofiling can be a useful strategy in the fight against terror.According to Professor Karl Rethemeyer, “what makes terroristorganizations more lethal is religious ideology” (Nomani, 2012).Professor Rethemeyer adds that when religion is combined withethno-nationalism, a dangerous combination is achieved (Nomani,2012). According to me, denying the fact that most terrorist attacksagainst American people are perpetrated by people of Arab or Muslimdescent will be burying our heads in the sand. I think that peoplefail to understand what racial profiling is. Racial profiling doesnot entail persecution, harassment, and discrimination of Arabs andMuslims. Instead, it involves the singling our people who sharecertain qualities, in this case religion and ethnic background, forthe purpose of further investigation. The few minutes that a policeofficer spends questioning a person who comes from Arab or Muslimcountries may make the difference between life and death.
WhileI advocate the use of racial profiling in the fight against terror, Ithink that it should be combined with other techniques that are usedto prevent crimes such as drug and human trafficking. Apart fromusing an individual’s religion or country of origin as a basis forinterrogating him/her, I think police should combine this approachwith other strategies such as intelligence gathering. The police canmitigate the negative effects of racial profiling by always havingevidence no matter, how petty, before stopping and questioningMuslims or Arabs. For example, the police should not be hesitant fromstopping and searching a person whom they consider to be acting weirdfor fear of being accused of racial discrimination.
Besides,Muslims such as Nomani admits that they have failed to policethemselves (Nomani, 2012). Although the majority of Muslims who livein America are not in any way associated with terror attacks theyunderstand that the government has an obligation of ensuring thesafety of its citizens regardless of their political affiliations,sexual orientation, race, age, and gender. Besides, Muslims living inAmerica know that it is some amongst them who have ruined theirreputation. However, they would appreciate more if the police do notuse the guise of the fight against terror to perpetrate racial-basedviolence against them. It is for this reason that I recommend thatthe police always seek to have some tangible evidence beforeinitiating an arrest.
Inconclusion, over the recent past, the use of racial profiling bypolice particularly when dealing with terrorism has increased, thestrategy has received mixed reactions from different stakeholders.Some people oppose it terming it as ineffective, prone to abuse, andcounterproductive. On the other hand, people who support it maintainthat it is an effective strategy that can help police single outpotential terrorists. Besides, some people argue that Israel hassuccessfully used racial profiling to ensure that its citizens aresecure.
Malkin,M. (2013). Racial profiling: A matter of Survival. Accessed on April9, 2017.https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2004-08-16-racial-profiling_x.htm
Nomani,A. (2012). Airport security: Let’s profile Muslims. Accessed onApril 9, 2017.http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/11/29/airport-security-lets-profile-muslims.html
Rudovsky,D. (2012).Racial Profiling: No more justified in the war on terrorismthat it is the war on crime. Accessed on April 9, 2017.https://www.pennlawreview.com/debates/index.php?id=5
Wagner,D. (2014). What Israel Airport security can teach the world. Accessedon April 9, 2017.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-wagner/what-israeli-airport-secu_b_4978149.html?
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