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Racial Profiling is Never OK
As the World Trade Center buildings collapsed on September 11, 2001, Americans across the country undoubtedly experienced a riveting sense of shock. Yet from that horrible day onward, a sense of unity and patriotism arose from the ashes of what once stood as the paradigm of American success and vitality. In a sense, citizens proved that despite their cosmopolitan and pluralistic society, they could still come together and stand unified against purported terrorists and their varied agendas. Still, lost in the ossification of America after the attacks were two subgroups – Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans, who remained the targets of backlash from an indignant and cynical American society salivating for justice and pre September 11 ataraxic.
While the attacks of September 11th may have justified wartime calls for special laws and protocol regarding racial profiling, similar to FDR’s decision to place Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II, the very essence of separating people based on their race, even during the most strenuous and challenging times, should never be tolerated in a country that prides itself on being the leader of the free world.
Racial Profiling: What is it and Why is it so Awful?
First off, it is important to understand exactly what racial profiling is. As defined by the Congressional Research Service, racial profiling is “the practice of targeting individuals for police or security detention based on their race or ethnicity in the belief that certain minority groups are more likely to engage in unlawful behavior.” Examples of racial profiling after 9/11 were widespread; news of the Department of Justice detaining scores of Muslims living in America indefinitely in what was described as a “Kafkaesque” world (American Civil Liberties Union, 1). Given that American citizenship is essentially a contract between an individual and the United States government, our society and government was legally at fault as it engaged in the racial profiling of Muslim and Arab Americans (read more about the history of racism).
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution anecdotally prohibits the American government from illegally searching and seizing one’s property; therefore, it is unlawful for the government to investigate someone simply for their Muslim beliefs or Arab background. Furthermore, by subjecting one group to differential treatment, we are circumventing our very constitution, which states “all men are created equal.” This is precisely why racial profiling is never ok. There is no way to judge a person’s intentions or motives based on their race. Doing so only stifles the prowess of American liberty and problematically defines some races as “more American” than others.
The Anti-American Essence of Racial Profiling
In reality of course, we know that the United States is a country of multiple races and ethnicities; no American should ever stand over another because of their genetic background. Such action only hampers the premise that the country should fight, at all costs, to protect the freedoms of all of its citizens. This is precisely the problem with racial profiling. Should the American government treat Muslim Americans after 9/11 or Japanese Americans in WWII different than other races, they are effectively classifying one group of people as “bad,” or not as good as others. This poses seriously implications for our society. For example, under this premise, what should the American government do if a white terrorist, like Timothy McVey (who bombed the Oklahoma City federal government building in 1996), kills dozens of American citizens?
Under the logic of American leaders in the 1940s and 2000s, it would seem as though the United States government should have attempted to separate all white Americans similar to McVey’s appearance and social status away from society in order to properly vet them individually to improve national security. However, this was obviously not the case, partially because of this country’s longstanding racial bias towards Caucasian Americans and partially because the bombing was not quite as devastating as the attacks on Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center buildings in 2001. Thus, it is fairly clear that racial profiling not only inhibits the promotion of “liberty for all,” but also makes it far more challenging for minorities to gain equal footing with their Caucasian counterparts. Moving forward, out of respect for this great country’s Constitution and founding documents, even under situations of the most duress, it is crucial that the American government stop using racial profiling as a part of any agenda.
Why Does Support for Racial Profiling Even Exist?
However, proponents of racial profiling often apply the zero sum game theory when considering a particular subgroup. In this example, supporters of the cause often claim that there is often a common denominator between an American subgroup and our wartime enemy. After September 11, many believed this common denominator was Islam. Yet according to several top American minds, “Islam is not violent or inhumane, and is a religion based upon peaceful principles and loving commandments.” (Cultural Diplomacy, 4). Clearly, there is no common denominator, which only denigrates the use of racial profiling Muslims after September 11. Moreover, it is impossible to subject all Islamic Americans to a very narrow cultural definition; Muslim Americans and Muslim Afghanis and Iraqis share only religious heritage and nothing more. In short, Israeli Jews are not the same as American Jews, and there is no reason for American Jews to suffer because of the poor decisions of their Middle Eastern counterparts. To think otherwise is stubborn and does not reflect a cultural view of the world as a whole.
Legality and dogma aside, one must also consider the social repercussions of racial profiling during and especially after wartime. While racial profiling may lead to the detention and arrest of an enemy of the state, one must also consider the innocent, law abiding citizens that are affected by such policies. For my friend Mike, the harassment and racism he experienced in school after September 11- in which his classmates referred to him as the “terrorist”- still affect him today. In an essence, racial profiling sequesters one group from the rest of society, clearly antithetical to the idea of an American melting pot.
In the end, safety truly is everyone’s concern. Still, one must realize that racial profiling is illegal, antithetical to our system of values, and a hindrance to the progress of our society. America was founded by those who fled discrimination and persecution, and by targeting someone for sharing the same ideology or skin color as the September 11 terrorists, we only subject them to terrorism and become a terrorist nation in and of ourselves. For these reasons, the American public mustn’t tolerate the practice of racial profiling.
“American Civil Liberties Union.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., 27 June 2005. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.
“Is Islam Peaceful or Violent” Cultural Diplomacy Organization. N.p. April 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2013
“Racial Profiling: Legal and Constitutional Issues” Congressional Research Service. N.p. April 16, 2012. Web. 15 Mar . 2013