Brown is the colour

Once the comedy throw away line, ‘Is it cos’ I is brown’ was positioned as exposing simplistic views of racism. However, it looks like racial profiling could be the start of infringement of human rights or direct alienation.

Is such profiling viable? Interestingly, security experts are warning that such an approach would be very labour intensive, expensive and not guaranteed to succeed.

‘I’m a white, 62-year-old, 6ft 4in suit-wearing ex-cop – do I really fit the profile of a suicide bomber?’ former Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens said.

I believe that any type of profiling is going to lead to an element of alienation!
I am appalled by the recent behaviour of over 140 passengers, flight crew and the Spanish police authorities – when last weekend two men of Asian appearance were forced off a charter flight because fellow passengers refused to fly with them. Has everyone forgotten that it was a white Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an airliner using explosives hidden in his shoe. What about Timothy James McVeigh? He was convicted of eleven federal offenses and ultimately executed as a result of his role in the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The bombing, which claimed 168 lives, is considered the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in U.S. history to date. NB He was of white skin.

It has been suggested that a way to improve a profiling procedure is to have checks made closer to the departure gate rather than at a centralised system at the entrance to the concourse. Maybe the theory is that greater behavioural variance by potential suspectwill occur the closer he/she gets closer to board the plane?

A system of ‘positive profiling’ has been suggested, i.e.: based on behaviour not ethnicity.

British Home Secretary John Reid has said that profiling would vet passengers before they arrive at the airport and cross-reference their personal details with those on terror watch lists or who display unusual behaviour. The ‘positive’ side refers to the plan to use iris or fingerprint scans to quickly identify people whom intelligence officers have cleared for fast-track travel, such as frequent business travelers, sparing them the long lineups, searches and customs inquiries other passengers will still face. Critics have pounced on the notion of profiling passengers, saying it amounts to racial and religious segregation that will do more harm than good.

Maybe one approach is improved investment into technology to decipher the contents of luggage? A simple suggestion is to ask more pertinent questions at check-in – understanding the reason for visits and obtaining written declarations to support travel.

To me it looks like there is little difference between positive profiling and racial profiling – they are literally too close for comfort? For example, would profiling only ‘judge’ those with Asian based names?! Therefore, there is a danger of abuse and simply missing the true cowardly suspects.

We need to remember that there are so many cultural differences between the 6 Billion of us! What will profiling ‘scouts’ or ‘scanners’ be looking for considering that we all come to this Earth in all shapes and sizes. Victimisation based on colour/creed must be avoided else we are another step closer to polarisation of communities.

Categories: 2006

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