“Excuse me, sir, could you please step aside?” the airport security officer said as I was “randomly selected.” I simply followed, worried and confused as to why I was picked out, while the officer casually walked in front of me.
I was on my annual summer trip to the United States with a layover in Germany and that year, I happened to be traveling alone.
So there I was, standing while Caucasian passengers walked by, as they gave me weird looks while the officer checked my bag and patted me down.
That was when it really struck me. I was “randomly selected” because I was a brown person who was traveling alone.
I had always heard stories of brown people being racially profiled by the security because of their appearance, but I had never personally experienced it until that moment. And when I did, I realized how humiliating and degrading it was.
Nonetheless, the prejudiced fear and racism that causes profiling is not only humiliating but also quite dangerous. Public spaces across dominantly white nations have effectively put communities under suspicions simply based on race. Whether it be at coffee shops, airports, the roads or any other common spaces. And this has resulted in innocent people being targeted, simply because of their skin color.
For instance, renowned celebrity Zayn Malik was another victim of racial profiling at an airport security check. On his way to America in 2010, he was interrogated at the airport when he was only 17, because of the color of his skin and his name. Malik said, “The first time I came to America, I had three security checks before I got on the plane; first they said that I’d been randomly selected, and then they said it was something to do with my name, it was flagging something on their system.,” Malik said.
Moreover, Alex Bastian, a San Francisco prosecutor was stopped at San Francisco International Airport last year. He was questioned about his motives behind his trip to Greece and Armenia all because of his Middle-Eastern features. Which is ironic since he is an American citizen and a member of law enforcement who was disrespected by his own country.
This reveals how brown people have been, and will constantly be harassed at airport security checks regardless of the person’s status.
In other cases, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, in May. The barista was suspicious and called 911, and made an excuse that they did not order anything, and only used the restroom. Many other people do the same, but those specific customers were targeted because they just happened to be black.
As mentioned before, racial profiling has been embedded across and beyond airport securities. Black and Latino drivers are twice as likely (4.5% vs. 2.1%) to be arrested if they are pulled over by cops than white drivers, and at times, especially for black people, after getting pulled over, the police does not refrain from arresting.
Unfortunately, these are just a couple of examples out of many.
Picture a scene where you are in the passenger seat, with your 4-year-old daughter at the back, and just a moment ago, your boyfriend was shot by the police right in front of your eyes. How would you feel if you were sitting in that seat? That is what happened to Philando Castile’s girlfriend on July 6, 2016.
He was killed because a prejudiced cop stopped his car. The most infuriating part is that the cop had light consequences compared to the weight of his action because he argued that it was self-defense. There’s no way Castile could be of any potential harm when he had his daughter and his wife with him.
Cases like Castile’s are defended by people arguing that it was a matter of security, yet, I think that those are a bunch of fallacious excuses. Why was I randomly pulled out of a line and had my baggage checked? Why was I patted down while other people walked through metal detectors and went on with their travels? Why were those two men arrested at Starbucks? Why would the cop open fire on Philando Castile?
Racial profiling comes from a place of irrational fear, racism, and bigotry. The real threat which does not only come from people of color specifically; it does not have to be a person from a particular racial background.
Sure, events like the 9/11 attacks or events on the news that involved colored people can definitely cause fear in people, but every society should put in more effort to create awareness that not every black or brown person is a threat to the national security. It is almost odd how an individual would assume every brown person is a terrorist simply because of a hate group that only consists of very few people as compared to the rest of the community.
Not only is it unethical to profile based on race, but it does not keep us safe either. Rather, it does the exact opposite. People of color are killed and harassed only because of the prejudice against them. And this is why I fail to see how law enforcement is supposed to protect everyone when they are targeting people based on their color.
These sad truths about racial profiling scare me because it could be a friend, a family member, or even me who could potentially be a victim of racial profiling. Given that there is still fear, as well as prejudice against people of color, it is not naive anymore to say that we, the people of color, are scared.
In the Woodstock community, many culturally and racially diverse people coexist, therefore it makes us a little more open-minded due to the fact that we are exposed to many different cultures.
This is also one of the reasons why we experience much less racism and racial profiling, yet, this open-minded-community can be a risk at times since it creates too much of an ideal society apart from the real world.
Most of us strive to go to universities in North America and Europe, where there is a high possibility that we will potentially encounter some shocking experiences. I say shocking because encountering racism or racial profiling is not common at Woodstock
It’s unfortunate to find out that people from different communities are attacked as outlaws because of past misconceptions. If people realize that targeting people of color will not solve any issues or reduce crime whatsoever, people will be less unfairly persecuted and killed.
It could be very simple if people were more educated about the dangers of racial profiling. It is understandable that people develop their prejudices through overlooking past occasions, but it is not reasonable to be afraid of a person based on their race, rather than their character since that won’t be solving any problems.
Edited by Victoria Lee