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We will not be silent

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We will not be silent t-shirt

From the ACLU: “NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal civil rights lawsuit charging that a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official and JetBlue Airways illegally discriminated against an American resident based solely on the Arabic message on his t-shirt and his ethnicity.

JetBlue and the TSA official, identified as “Inspector Harris,” would not let Raed Jarrar board his flight at John F. Kennedy Airport until he agreed to cover his t-shirt, which read “We Will Not Be Silent” in English and Arabic script. According to the complaint, Harris told Jarrar that it is impermissible to wear an Arabic shirt to an airport and equated it to a “person wearing a t-shirt at a bank stating, ‘I am a robber.'”

“It is a dangerous and slippery slope when we allow our government to take away a person’s rights because of his speech or ethnic background,” said Reginald Shuford, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “Racial profiling is illegal and ineffective and has no place in a democratic society.”

Jarrar, an architect and political analyst of Arabic descent, has lived in the United States since 2005 with his wife, who is an American citizen. On August 12, 2006, Jarrar attempted to fly on JetBlue from New York to Oakland, California, where he lived at the time. Although Jarrar successfully cleared two security checkpoints, he was approached by Inspector Harris while waiting at the boarding gate. Harris brought Jarrar to the JetBlue counter and told him that he would have to remove his shirt because other passengers were not comfortable with the Arabic script.

“It was clear that Mr. Jarrar was not a security threat and was singled out solely because of his ethnicity and the constitutionally protected speech on his t-shirt,” said Aden Fine, an ACLU senior staff attorney who represents Jarrar. “Rather than censor Raed, the TSA official and Jet Blue should have assured any uncomfortable passengers that there was absolutely no public safety or security risk. We hope this case sends the message to TSA officials and to airlines that they cannot discriminate against passengers because of their race or the content of their speech.”

Jarrar attempted to assert his constitutional right to wear the t-shirt, but became intimidated after he was surrounded by Harris and several JetBlue officials. He worried he would miss his flight or be arrested and detained indefinitely. The lead JetBlue customer service crewmember stated that she would buy Jarrar a new shirt to wear on top of his own t-shirt as a “compromise.” Left with no other choice, Jarrar reluctantly agreed, and was allowed on the plane only after the JetBlue agents ripped up his boarding pass and changed his seat from the front of the plane to the very back of the plane. He was then forced to board the plane first, even before disabled passengers and those traveling with children.

“I believe it is my right and responsibility as a new U.S. resident and taxpayer to fight for my freedoms and for the right of all people in this country to be free of discrimination,” said Jarrar, who is currently employed with the American Friends Service Committee, an organization committed to peace and social justice. “It was not my goal to offend anyone with my t-shirt, but it is a shame that racial profiling and censorship are still rampant in America’s airports.”

The ACLU said Jarrar’s case is part of a disturbing pattern of discriminatory acts at airports against individuals perceived to be Arab, especially those engaged in expressive activities that visibly display their ethnic background or religious faith. According to the Department of Transportation, it has received complaints of discrimination by air carriers every month from January 2002 to June 2007, the last month for which statistics are available. Several of those discrimination complaints have been lodged against JetBlue.

The ACLU filed the complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The complaint charges that TSA Inspector Harris and JetBlue violated Jarrar’s civil rights under the First and Fifth Amendments and federal, state and city anti-discrimination laws.

In addition to Fine and Shuford, attorneys in this case are: Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, and Palyn Hung of the NYCLU.

More information, including a copy of the complaint, video and photographs, is online at: www.aclu.org/wewillnotbesilent

Update: Here is Raed’s account of what happened….

Written by Eric Stoller

August 11th, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Posted in This and that

  • http://badasses.wordpress.com judgesnineteen

    Now I want to buy one of those shirts. And wear it next time I fly.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    I think I’ll buy one as soon as the next payday rolls around.
    We Will Not Be Silent T-Shirt

  • http://www.annz0r.net annz0r

    I’m flying JetBlue in about a month to and from NY. Maybe I’ll pick up a shirt…

  • FinanceBuzz

    JetBlue has every right to set dresscode standards for passengers on it aircraft. Just as they might not allow a shirt on their planes with profanity, they may choose to not allow clothing that makes others uncomfortable. They are a private entity and have the right to make this decision. They did NOT discriminate against this person because they offered to make the necessary accommodations to allow him to fly (buy him a new shirt). Remember, the Constitution protects us from [strong]government[/strong] restrictions on our freedom of expression. If the TSA had made this determination on its own, he might have a case, but reacting to the policies of the airline does not raise to this level of culpability, especially given the airline’s right to make this decision.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    Did you happen to read the part about the federally funded TSA agent who stated that wearing a shirt with Arabic on it was like wearing a shirt at a bank that said “I’m a bank robber”?

    Do you think this would have happened if I (a white guy) had worn the shirt? or maybe if I was wearing a shirt that said “I like sandwiches” in German. Would that have caused several people at the gate to be uncomfortable?

    or maybe, just maybe, it was blatant racial profiling coupled with prejudice towards a man of color who was wearing a shirt with Arabic script on it.

    Social standards that address t-shirt profanity are completely different than t-shirts that contain the Arabic language. I think my head just exploded from this apples to asparagus comparison. They did discriminate against him. For them to offer to buy him a new shirt so that he could cover up his shirt is discriminatory. It’s against the law. A private company cannot legally discriminate against someone.

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  • FinanceBuzz

    Eric,

    I again repeat: JetBlue is a private organization and they have a right to regulate their dress code. Granted, there are circumstances where this could be abused to target groups to discriminate against them simply because they are of a certain group. There is no evidence of that here, no evidence that they said “Hey, we are going to give this Middle Eastern man a hard time just because he is Middle Eastern.” As such, this right renders most of your questions moot, but I will address a few of them regardless.

    Do you think this would have happened if I (a white guy) had worn the shirt? or maybe if I was wearing a shirt that said “I like sandwiches” in German. Would that have caused several people at the gate to be uncomfortable?

    Are you suggesting that no one would have any reason to be uncomfortable with a Middle Eastern man wearing a t-shirt with Arabic on it? I am not necessarily saying it is a rationale fear, but in this post-9/11 era, it is completely understandable. This is not a case of people being uncomfortable just because he is Middle Eastern.

    or maybe, just maybe, it was blatant racial profiling coupled with prejudice towards a man of color who was wearing a shirt with Arabic script on it.

    I don’t have a problem with profiling. Why? Who were the terrorists who flew those planes into building on 9/11? Middle Eastern men. Not a blue-haired grandma from Kansas. Not a black man from Mississippi. Not a white guy from Los Angeles. Not an Asian woman from Boston. This does not suggest that the rights of Middle Eastern people should simply be discarded but if they are subject to a bit more scrutiny, so be it. This is the kind of political correctness and hypersensitivity that could result in people getting killed.

    They did discriminate against him. For them to offer to buy him a new shirt so that he could cover up his shirt is discriminatory. It’s against the law. A private company cannot legally discriminate against someone.

    You are right. They cannot and they did not. He was allowed to fly once he complied with the dresscode.

  • Katie

    Wow, I’m scenting some serious denial from Finance. No racism here, no way . Nope – this is just the free market, where corporations have as many (read: more) rights than human beings.

    Pardon the vehemence, but I can’t stand these racists who use “political correctness” and ‘hypersensitivity” as insults to guard the interests of the machine.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Sorry, Katie, but I do not fear being smear with the “racist” brush,given that I know it is not true or warranted. I am not talking about this man’s race. I am talking about his actions. Thus, rather than attempting to dismiss my points by smearing me as an alleged racist, I would encourage to deal with the position and show me where my logic is wrong as I attempted to do with Eric’s argument.

    It seems like you have something against the free market based on comment about corporate rights and use of the term “machine.” Could this be the source of your frustration with my response?

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    Okay. Yes, you are, because you said that you are all for racial profiling. We are all talking about his race because his race was part of what made a bunch of racist, Arab phobic people uncomfortable. If that shirt had been worn by a white man, NOTHING would have happened.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Well, Eric, explain to me the rationale for checking Grandma over while a Middle Eastern male walks right past onto the plane?

    I am sorry if your seeing everything through a prism of race makes you think that all positions are motivated by a person’s race but that is simply not the case. I am not suggesting that all Arab people be banned from commercial airline flights, but if someone takes an action that makes other passengers understandably (not I did not say rationally) uncomfortable, a private entity has the option of taking action. I work with Arab people and I know that the vast majority are not terrorists so you cannot label me as being “Arab phobic.” (I really hate the “phobia” term, as if other groups scare me or something.)

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    I said nothing about an elderly lady. I said “WHITE MAN.” Let’s say it was me to be specific. I see the effects of race. Growing up as a white man, I was socialized not to see race. It’s part of that whole white privilege thing that I’ve been talking about. White people can dismiss race because we are taught that it does not matter. And then we have the gall to say that we are for racial profiling. Racial profiling targets PEOPLE OF COLOR! How convenient…white people = we don’t see race and race is not that important, EXCEPT when people of color are concerned. Then we see race and say that we should profile people who might make us uncomfortable.

    I never said that you were Arab phobic. I was describing the people at the Jet Blue gate.

    How did Raed “act” that made people so uncomfortable?

    and, the “I work with people of color” defense is getting old. It’s not about your friends or who you work with. It’s about you. It’s about self-awareness. It’s not about who we sleep with, work with, live with, talk with, etc.

    Having friends of color does not automatically make us allies.

  • FinanceBuzz

    It’s part of that whole white privilege thing that I’ve been talking about. White people can dismiss race because we are taught that it does not matter. And then we have the gall to say that we are for racial profiling. Racial profiling targets PEOPLE OF COLOR!

    White people did not fly three jetliners (and a fourth had they been successful) into buildings.
    White people are not continually killing our soldiers in Iraq with suicide bombers.
    White people did not detonate numerous bombs in the London public transit system.
    White people did not attempt to blow up the Glasgow Airport this summer.

    So tell me, why should authorities at an airport not pay a little more attention to Middle Eastern/Islamic males? I am not suggesting internments camps or band on travel. I am suggesting that it is entirely appropriate to examine travel records, ask more questions, and conduct search of people of a group that have been shown to have a higher preponderance of committing terrorist acts. To not do so out of some fear of profiling is political correctness as far as I am concerned.

    As for my comment on knowing Arab/Muslim/Middle Eastern people, I was simply defending what I took as an accusation of fear of those groups. You said “Yes you are” which I took as a rebuttal to my comment of not being a racist which would have been linked to the discussion of “Arab phobic” people. If I misinterpreted, I apologize, but my comments were a legitimate counter to such an accusation had it been made.

  • http://rhetoricalwasteland.blogspot.com Dennis

    FB,

    I’m having trouble with a couple of your comments…..

    Are you suggesting that no one would have any reason to be uncomfortable with a Middle Eastern man wearing a t-shirt with Arabic on it? I am not necessarily saying it is a rationale fear, but in this post-9/11 era, it is completely understandable. This is not a case of people being uncomfortable just because he is Middle Eastern.

    Um, if Eric doesn’t suggest it, I will. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Arabic. It’s a language. You’re suggesting it’s understandable that we are supposed to fear and discriminate against an entire population and on the basis of the actions of a few dozen people? Or is the religion we are supposed to discriminate against? Because there is a huge amount of difference, marked notably by the presence of millions and millions of Asian Muslims.

    And if it’s the case that racial profiling is acceptable – and I don’t think it is – why don’t we ever racially profile when white people do something bad? I’m thinking specifically of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing in the early 1990s. Why did we not profile white, male Protestants after that? And before you suggest that McVeigh was a loner, he wasn’t. There was a lot of fringe support for him. I’d suggest reading David Neiwert’s In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest for some background.

    My point is that it’s incredibly racist and demeaning to suggest through racial profiling that ALL Arabs, ALL Musliims, or ALL people who speak Arabic are potentially terrorists; it’s also simply factually inaccurate. As a nation, and especially when it comes to public perception or law enforcement, we NEVER do that when a white person commits a crime. THAT is institutionalized racism, because it’s done by the government and large private institutions we call corporations.

    The second thing that concerns me about your post is the suggestion that JetBlue has certain rights because they are a “private” company.

    I again repeat: JetBlue is a private organization and they have a right to regulate their dress code. Granted, there are circumstances where this could be abused to target groups to discriminate against them simply because they are of a certain group.

    Where do those rights come from? Who grants them? Where do they end, and what do they run up against?

    As far as I know, private corporations get their rights from the U.S. government, so they are not absolute rights. The government, ostensibly, is here to support, protect, and serve the citizens. So in that sense JetBlue’s “right” to enforce a discriminatory dress code doesn’t really exist, since JetBlue’s existence is owed to a government that explicitly prohibits discrimination, even by private corporations.

    And it’s certainly a legitimate question to ask why JetBlue’s “dress code” is the way it is. Things like that are not accidents; they are created by people, and as such, are fair game for rational discourse and questions. In this case, there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate reason for the dress code to prohibit the use of Arabic. Therefore, the code does target a group of people – anyone who likes or uses Arabic.

    And that just seems stupid and irrational.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Dennis,

    I never said there was anything inherently wrong with Arabic. I never said the fear of rational. How many times do I have to make the latter statement? I am not defending the fear. But the reality is that a large portion of JetBlue’s customers that day were understandably concerned. Thus, they have a right to cater to the comfort of their customers so long as they do discriminate against someone.

    My point is that it’s incredibly racist and demeaning to suggest through racial profiling that ALL Arabs, ALL Musliims, or ALL people who speak Arabic are potentially terrorists; it’s also simply factually inaccurate.

    You are absolutely right. And I never said all members of these groups were terrorists.

    And if it’s the case that racial profiling is acceptable – and I don’t think it is – why don’t we ever racially profile when white people do something bad? I’m thinking specifically of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing in the early 1990s. Why did we not profile white, male Protestants after that?

    According to statistics gathered by the National Counterterrorism Center of the United States, Islamic extremism was responsible for approximately 57% of terrorist fatalities and 61% of woundings in 2004 and early 2005, where a terrorist perpetrator could be specified. – Wikipedia entry on Islamic terrorism. When white people, black people, Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asia, Korean, etc.) people, Nordic people, etc. commit these acts to the degree that Islamic extremists do, you might have a point.

    I find the following quite disturbing:

    As far as I know, private corporations get their rights from the U.S. government, so they are not absolute rights.

    The government does not give anyone their rights. Our rights are inherent to us. The Bill of Rights protects us from government’s usurpation of our rights. JetBlue can set standards on dresscode because they are private, because they own the plane. And JetBlue has a right to say that if something is uncomfortable to its passengers, you cannot wear it. They are not bound to the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression. That restriction applies to government not private entities. Similarly, I do not a have a right to post to Eric’s blog. Eric chooses to extend that courtesy and he can cut me off whenever he desires. What cannot be done is that the government cannot legally prevent me from expressing my viewpoints on this blog so long as its owner gives us permission to post here.

  • http://rhetoricalwasteland.blogspot.com Dennis

    Whoa! Wait a second! Hold the PHONE, dude.

    A corporation is NOT the same thing as a person, and does NOT get its rights from the Bill of Rights or the Constitution.

    No no no – they are not the same thing at all. A corporation is an artificial construct granted rights by the State. A person, is, well, a person.

    And certainly private citizens and private corporations have all sorts of limits on their rights. For example, I cannot use my freedom of expression to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, or openly incite others to violence; if I do so, I can be arrested and charged with a crime. Inasmuch as you disagree with that, the U.S. court system has been consistently clear that the rights enshrined in the Constitution are conditional (if you disagree, try carrying an unconcealed weapon into a K-12 school; the right to bear arms won’t stop the cops). Another example: free speech does not apply to K-12 schools – and there are even limits on free speech as they pertain to college campuses.

    In any case, you’re correct; JetBlue is not bound to the Constitution. Their rights are actually far more limited than that – they exist at the will of the government, who can disband corporations who behave badly. It doesn’t happen much anymore, but it has in the past.

    In fact, if I remember right, a significant number of the Founding Fathers were very hostile towards corporations.

    I will address your other points in a future comment.

  • Michelle Marie

    If I wore a t-shirt stating “I am a robber” to the bank, would that give security the right to stop me?

  • http://rhetoricalwasteland.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    FB,

    1) Why should an airline ever respond to the irrational fears of its customers, understandable or no?

    2) How do the airline employees decide which irrational fears to coddle and which to ignore?

    3) Do airline employees have a right to react to their own irrational fears while at work, thereby making said irrational fears de facto company policy?

    4) What is an understandable but irrational fear, anyway?

    5) Please take a position – either the customers’ fear of Arabic is rational or it’s not. I get that you think it’s understandable, but I am assuming they are not the same thing. Or, if you’re not actually referring to Arabic but to Muslims, then is a fear of Muslims (or Arabs, since they are not the same thing) rational or irrational? Why?

    6) I stand by my claim that racial profiling is racist when applied to a racial group like Arabs: It assumes that every member of a group is potentially a terrorist, more so than any other person from any non-profiled group. Thus, a harmful claim is being made of all members of a group regardless of its accuracy.

    7) I don’t get how responding with data from 2004 or 2005 rebuts my claim relating to the early- to mid-1990s. If racial profiling is good now, then surely it was good 10-15 years ago. So why didn’t we racially profile white men after Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building?

    8) Why should we racially profile Arabs, religiously profile Muslims, or profile people who apparently like Arabic when have the knowledge that the people who planned and committed 9-11 are and were members of a small sect named Wahhabism, and NOT representative of Islam or Arabs as a whole? Why not profile people from Saudi Arabia, since 15 of the 19 hijackers were from there? Why not profile people who fit the profile of known terrorists instead of profiling so many unnecessary people?

    In the case that’s it not clear, I think racial profiling is not only ineffective, inefficient, and a waste of resources, but racist. Just saying.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Dennis,

    You are correct. Corporations are constructs of law. However, they nor is any other private entity required to honor the freedom of speech protections of the Constitution. Thus, they do not have to grant Mr. Jarrar or any other passenger the right to freedom of speech. The are free to set their dresscode. If you do not like, that is why there is competition. You can protest with your wallet (or your voice if you wish) and take your business elsewhere. But you should be able to require them to provide you carriage if you do conform to their standards of conduct/dress/etc.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Michelle Marie,

    If you wear such a shirt, you are probably begging for enhanced scrutiny from security at the bank. They might not assume that you are indeed a robber as that would be a very brazen approach but it might raise interest as to what you intentions are. Perhaps you are a diversion. Perhaps you are that brazen. Regardless, in a bank that is a sensitive matter and someone is going to take notice and may well ask you some questions.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Well Dennis, I have tried to post my response multiple times but it will not take. I do not know what is going whether it is my browser or what. I will try again tomorrow but for now, I am not having much luck. I do want to respond because I do not want to leave the impress I am ducking the questions.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Note: I hope this does all of sudden appear with four or five different versions. I keep trying to post it and the site acts like it has it but displays nothing. Is it too long? Anyone know?

    Dennis,

    1-4.) First, rational thought: not all Arabs/Muslims/Middle Easterners are terrorists. Irrational would be the opposite. Reasonable fear due to anxiety could be a man that appeared to be of the above category being on the plane, especially wearing the t-shirt. If his presence alone is concerning, that is something a passenger has to accept or choose not to fly. If however, that person takes an action (in this case wearing a t-shirt that could well inflame given the sensitivity around his culture) that irrational fear may be understandable given the circumstances.

    Should the airline respond to these fears? Well that depends on their stance on customer service. If a significant portion of the plane is concerned, do you alienate those customers for one person who has chosen to wear a t-shirt that could inflame or do you meet the needs of the majority of the customers? I recall reading in Good to Great the story about Nordstrom accepting a customer’s return of tire snow chains – even though they did not sell them! Why? Because they were totally committed to customer service.

    You must remember, the majority of these people probably do not know Arabic. Perhaps they did not realize that the Arabic word was the same as the English phrase. Perhaps the English phrase was taken to be emphasizing some unknown comment in Arabic. I had cannot say as I had the benefit of an article giving me the translation immediately. In such a scenario it could have been taken as a threat. Heck, chalk it up to ignorance of the language if you like. The bottomline is that Mr. Jarrar wore a confrontational shirt (not illegal) in a context where his shirt (on an airliner in the post-9/11 world) could be disturbing. If the airline wants to react to that, that is their policy decision.

    5. You have not figured out my position? I have stated it VERY clearly. Here you go again: JetBlue is a private entity and has the right to determine its dress code. They do not have to provide freedom of speech on their aircraft if that speech is deemed to be offensive their customers.

    6. Unfortunately, there are many innocent people in the Muslim/Arab/Middle Eastern group that may be inconvenienced by increased scrutiny. However, inconvenience and scrutiny is not necessarily a denial of basic rights. Given the history and track record of terroristic acts by Islamic extremists, scrutiny of the group that provide 100% of these extremists is warranted and the basic safety of the American populace (including innocent members of the above group!) should be jeopardized to honor political correctness.

    7. As said, show me a track record of white males that compares favorably to the track record of Islamic extremists. When you can provide those stats, we can talk.

    8. There are many more terrorist groups than just those that that participated in September 11th. To be honest, I somewhat doubt that airliners will be used again by whatever group is seeking to do harm simply because scrutiny is so high with respect to airliners. But does that mean we should just throw open the gates and let everyone walk through unchecked? Trust me, I hate dealing with the airport these days. I have had to do work in a major American airport and the procedure just to go out into the gate areas to check on something was a pain.

    Bottomline, I am not flexible on the tradeoff between security and political correctness. I do believe firmly that there is a bright line where Constitutional rights are violated. I am not suggesting imprisonment, internment, illegal search (airport searches do not seem to fall into this area), etc. But inconvenience and being asked a few more questions, having a computer analyze your travel arrangements (something that may well be invisible to you anyway) and a higher frequency of searches that fall within legally permissible guidelines do not concern me given the very clearly demonstrated outsized incidence of terrorist activity within a certain group (defined as cultural, race, or religion as there does seem to be a debate on Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, etc.).

    BTW, I have still not heard a defense of rifling through grandma’s person as a Middle Eastern male strides onto an aircraft unmolested. Setting aside your concerns on profiling, what logic is in operation there?

  • http://rhetoricalwasteland.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    Corporations are constructs of law. However, they nor is any other private entity required to honor the freedom of speech protections of the Constitution. Thus, they do not have to grant Mr. Jarrar or any other passenger the right to freedom of speech.

    I think this is where we have a disagreement. Corporations are not obligated to follow the Constitution, but they are obligated to follow whole host of other laws set down by the government. Some of those laws might be construed to prohibit JetBlue from doing what they did, as the ACLU is contending. And I think you’d find that many people would disagree with your claim that private corporations are not obligated to allow some form of free speech, though I think free speech restrictions are becoming more and more popular as public spaces are privatized.

  • Dennis

    BTW, I have still not heard a defense of rifling through grandma’s person as a Middle Eastern male strides onto an aircraft unmolested. Setting aside your concerns on profiling, what logic is in operation there?

    I think existing security measures are a compromise between two or more groups that are making very different assumptions about not only how security should work, but what the problem is in the first place (FB, imagine you and I trying to create a coherent security procedure!). You’ll not hear a defense of the ridiculous screening measures at airports from me. I have flown three times since 9/11, and all I’ve seen is a big hassle. In fact, one person very close to me is pulled aside “randomly” every time, and she’s a 90-pound 60-year-old. In fact, airport security made her open the box she was carrying with her husband’s ashes in it. To call it “emotionally traumatic” is an understatement. I call it inhumane.

    I still think giving increased scrutiny to Middle Eastern males is completely unacceptable. I’m just saying that I don’t have any interest in defending existing procedures either.

    FB, you seem to have a habit of assuming that a) there are only two sides to any issue, so b) if I critique or criticize one side, I must support the other. I very rarely operate like that.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Dennis,

    I am not arguing that corporations do not have a slew of laws they must follow. I am talking about freedom of speech and how that pertains to this situation and their determination that a t-shirt was offensive/inappropriate/etc. They did not deny Mr. Jarrer transport on the aircraft, we have no reports of which I am aware of blanket denial of service to other people of similar ethnicity/religion/etc. This is about the t-shirt.

    Let me ask you this? Do you agree with Don Imus’ termination by CBS radio for his remarks earlier this year?

  • FinanceBuzz

    Dennis,

    Regarding the security procedures, I simply ask this. If there is say a 1 in 10,000 chance that a given Middle Eastern/Arab/Muslim male could be a terrorist and a 1 in 100,000 chance that the grandmother could be, why is it so unreasonable to spend more of the limited security resources focusing on the higher risk threat?

  • http://badasses.wordpress.com judgesnineteen

    I don’t actually know the answer to this, but since companies are legally disallowed from treating their employees differently based on sex, and I would assume race as well (sex is the one I’ve read about), are they also disallowed from treating customers differently based on race? They have the right to set a dresscode, yes, but have they set a no-Arabic-shirts dress code? Or is the Arab-looking Jarrar the only one who has to cover his shirt?

    In any case, I think it’s extremely offensive that they would equate any Arabic writing with announcing that you’re a terrorist. That seems clear enough to me: they’re saying people who know/use Arabic are terrorists. I don’t know what can be done about that legally, but it’s definitely wrong.

    This wasn’t racial profiling as in “we actually think you might be a threat because you’re Middle Eastern.” They knew he was ok, he had gotten through security, and they didn’t want to keep him from flying, so the odds of someone like him being a terrorist are not really the point. The point is that he was treated differently from other passengers even though he wasn’t a terrorist, because of how he looked and the fact that he apparently knew Arabic.

  • FinanceBuzz

    I suspect their ability to request that the t-shirt be changed falls under a broad category of offensive or inappropriate clothing. I cannot say this for sure as the article did not touch on this. However, that would seem like a reasonable prohibition to me.

    In any case, I think it’s extremely offensive that they would equate any Arabic writing with announcing that you’re a terrorist. That seems clear enough to me: they’re saying people who know/use Arabic are terrorists.

    Really? Where did they say this? In fact, where did it say they equated using Arabic writing to be a done by a terrorist? What seems clear is that they had a problem with a t-shirt not the man. They were perfectly willing to let him fly. There is no report of they broadly denying boarding to people of similar ethnic background. So why is it “clear to [you]” that they think that “people who know/use Arabic are terrorists?”

    The point is that he was treated differently from other passengers even though he wasn’t a terrorist, because of how he looked and the fact that he apparently knew Arabic.

    Really? Seems to me that he was treated differently because of the t-shirt he chose to wear. Again, do you have evidence that they have treated others who know Arabic in a similar manner? In fact, I would not be surprised if there was at least one other person on that flight that knew Arabic.

  • Dennis

    FB,

    Why is a shirt with Arabic on it dangerous or disruptive at all? Without context, a T-shirt with a one-line slogan repeated in English, especially the one in this case, is harmless, right? “We Will Not Be Silent” is hardly a call to arms.

    The language and/or the shirt only becomes “dangerous” or a “problem” if there are related underlying beliefs about what the shirt represents. What do you think those underlying and related beliefs are?

    I am in agreement with judgesnineteen: the shirt only becomes dangerous if one holds an underlying belief that Arabic and/or speakers of Arabic are “dangerous” i.e. terrorists. Otherwise, what’s the problem? (Setting aside the legality of the action for a moment, I’m thinking about the reasoning and assumptions behind the actions.)

  • FinanceBuzz

    Dennis,

    So I am really to believe that you cannot even understand (not necessarily agree or feel similarly) how someone on an airplane could feel ill at ease with that t-shirt? I can definitely see it. As I said before, you don’t know what that Arabic phrase is if you do not read Arabic. The article tells me that is what it said, but those people did not feel that. Regardless, even if there was no misunderstanding, the combination of those aspects (Arabic script, a Middle Eastern male, an airplane, and the post-9/11 era) could lead to some nerves on edge from some air travelers. Even if you do not agree or if you cannot see yourself being uncomfortable, I do not understand why you have such a hard time seeing that that could make some people on that plane feel uncomfortable.

  • Dennis

    No, I understand perfectly well why people feel uncomfortable around Arabic, a Middle Eastern male, an airplane, etc.

    I just think it’s despicable, because it’s based on a false assumptions (at least one of which is racist) and ignorance. I’m not inclined to condone someone’s entirely irrational discomfort, and I think it was a mistake for JetBlue to do so.

    Eric, can you close the thread now?

  • Michelle Marie

    Wait, wait! Before Eric closes it, I want to agree with Dennis!

    Also, another rhetorical question, this time specifically for FinanceBuzz: If a male had asked my rhetorical question about wearing a t-shirt reading “I am a robber” to a bank, would you have referred to him as “brazen”?

  • FinanceBuzz

    I assume you are referring to this:

    If you wear such a shirt, you are probably begging for enhanced scrutiny from security at the bank. They might not assume that you are indeed a robber as that would be a very brazen approach but it might raise interest as to what you intentions are. Perhaps you are a diversion. Perhaps you are that brazen.

    I fail to see what the gender of the person posing the scenario has to do with my answer. If you think it had an impact on my answer, I suggest that you are attempting to read something into it that was not there.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    @ FinanceBuzz – I think Michelle was inquiring as to whether or not your answer would have been different had the question originated from a man.

    Also, I’ve been away from the blog for a bit and I had a thought pop into my little noggin…

    In an earlier comment, you said that you “[didn’t] have a problem with profiling” and that you “work with Arab people.”

    I’m wondering whether or not you would discuss your pro-profiling position with your Arab colleagues as readily as you do on my site?

  • FinanceBuzz

    Eric,

    I gathered that that was what she was asking but I fail to see that that is a relevant question. My answer had no mention or implication regarding the gender of the person posing the question.

    As for discussing that position with Arab colleagues, I admit that would be an uncomfortable conversation. Confrontation that could lead to hurt feelings is usually not. However, that does not invalidate my rationale for holding that positions. Sometimes, things hurt our feelings but that is life.

  • Tanya

    I hope I manage to make my point in the short time I have for this post. I agree with most of the points that Eric and Dennis make. Also, sorry if this is a repeat because I was not able to read all of the posts. However, I think we are simplifying this issue a bit to much.

    I don’t think we can compare the shirt to a statement in German “I like sandwiches.” A shirt that is translated that says “we will not be silent” is a revolutionary statement that is intended to be understood by English speakers. I think this is better compared to someone visiting an old concentration camp post WWII wearing a shirt with a Nazi symbol. Now, I don’t mean to equate 9-11 with genocide because 9-11 was not nearly as significant or aweful. But, I hope you get the feeling I am getting at. The shirt did not have a benign (sp?) statement rather, it was intended to evoke a reaction. Afterall, he knew he was getting on the plane the day he chose to wear the shirt. Perhaps it was insensitive to the fellow passengers who can’t help but think about the attack when they get on a plane. We are encouraged afterall to “never forget.” (Whatever happened to the ol’ Christian saying “forgive and forget”? side note).

    I do not think we should assume that anyone non-white is a threat. I agree that our society is incredibly racist and xenophobic. But, Raed was looking for a reaction to his shirt. Had the message not been translated, and therefore not accessible to most passangers, I think the airline would have been out of line.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    FinanceBuzz – Why would that be an uncomfortable conversation? How would it be any different from the dialogue that we are engaged in on my site?

  • vic

    Because there are some thing that are much easier to say on the internet than they are in real life. Or at the very least, have lesser consequences.

  • vic

    things, rather!

  • FinanceBuzz

    Precisely what vic said, Eric. Sometimes it is hard to say things to others. For example, I used to sit beside at guy at a former job that had horrible body odor. To have walked over and said, “Buddy, you smell.” might have been accurate but it would have been very difficult to say face to face. But that difficulty did not make my point any less valid now did it?

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    Tanya – I feel that the message on the shirt was in reaction to post 9/11 silencing of Arab voices and the vilification of all things Arab-related, including Arabic. When I read your comment, I envisioned someone wearing a shirt with a swastika on it at a post-WW2 concentration camp site. The shirt would definitely get a reaction especially due to the historical ramifications of the swastika (or insert another Nazi symbol here). The phrase “We will not be silent” in both English and Arabic does not directly relate to what happened on September 11th. I feel that the amount of “uncomfortableness” and “reaction” to the shirt was due to the prejudices of the TSA agent, the crowd at the gate, and the Jet Blue staffers.

    Vic – Thanks again for pulling out your critical thinking hat. I am interested specifically as to “why” it is perhaps easier for a white man to say things to a non-Arab blog community vs. saying the same things to Arab colleagues (either in person or via the web). I believe that it is because the things being said are known to be racist and that it is a lot easier to say them outloud in a comment (using an alias) when the target of the racist remarks is not present. It’s similar to all of the racist statements that I hear when I am around a group of white people. The same statements are never uttered when people of color are present.

    FinanceBuzz – I think your previous points have related to the fact that you would not say something that you knew to be racist or xenophobic to your Arab colleagues because you know that the repercussions would probably be negative.

    I believe that racial profiling targets people of color and anyone who says otherwise is going to have a hard time proving their claim. The act of negatively targeting people of color is a racist act.

    The content of my comments/posts that on this blog are the same as the content of my real-world, face-to-face conversations. I feel that the consequences of what I say on this site and in the “real world” are the same. That’s why I blog as myself, Eric Stoller. I don’t use a nickname and then modify my communication on the internet vs. the brick and mortar realm.

  • Vic

    I don’t wear hats anymore, I seem to lose them within a few weeks of buying them :(

  • Tanya

    Eric
    Thanks for your response. Its true that a swastika is a much clearer message than the message on the shirt at hand. But, how do you know that the shirt is intended to be interpreted the way that you do? I don’t think we should assume that anyone who fits our discription of a muslim is against us and “out to get us.” But, Raed wore the shirt on a plane for a reason and the message is unclear. Is he upset about how his culture has been treated post 9-11 (and before too) or does he agree with those who committed the acts of 9-11? Its unclear.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Eric,

    Here is an opportunity to punch a hole in the racial prism through which you see so many things. Here I do not have to get inside the head of someone who made some comments – I made them so I can comment directly:

    I think your previous points have related to the fact that you would not say something that you knew to be racist or xenophobic to your Arab colleagues because you know that the repercussions would probably be negative.

    I do not “know” this to be racist because it was not said with any concept that the Arab race was in any way inherently inferior to other races. The only thing that might come into play is a viewpoint on a cultural aspect of some members of that culture. My position on profiling for security is not an effort to attack a race but a recognition of the realities of which group is almost exclusively responsible for radical Islamic terrorism. Now, if you want to take exception with my holding a suspicion of a large group of people the majority of which would probably never commit such acts, that is fine. But it has nothing to do with their race.

  • Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » The 16th Erase Racism Carnival!()

  • Dianne

    Regardless, even if there was no misunderstanding, the combination of those aspects (Arabic script, a Middle Eastern male, an airplane, and the post-9/11 era) could lead to some nerves on edge from some air travelers.

    A couple of white guys blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City using a truck a few years ago. I’m uncomfortable seeing white guys with bad hair around trucks so men should be required to cover their heads before getting near trucks, right? You know, to reassure people that they’re not really terrorists bent on setting off a car bomb. Likewise, white men are the ones most likely to attack clinics that they think provide abortions, particularly Christian white men, so men should be required to remove all signs that they might be Christian (i.e. jewelry, t-shirts, etc) before approaching any free standing medical clinics…One could go on with this all day, but what it boils down to is that you’re saying that your prejudices (random fear of a person simply because he is Middle Eastern and wearing a T-shirt that contains Arabic script with an English translation) are more important than his comfort and right to wear comfortable clothing. Sigh. Well, at least you’re honest about it.

  • http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/ DaisyDeadhead

    I have that shirt, have worn it to antiwar events, and never got a second look!!! Do you think being a middle-aged white woman grandma with long blond hair has anything to do with it? ;)

    Profiling, anyone?

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    Tanya – Great comment. You are right, none of us knew why he wore the shirt. I did a little digging and found this — here is Raed’s personal account of what happened. It does not sound like he was hoping for a reaction by wearing that t-shirt.

    Also, it is interesting to me how Raed’s religion has been mentioned in the comments. I read the ACLU press release again and it does not mention that he is Muslim. He does say that he is Muslim on his blog but I am assuming that none of the commentors had checked to see if Raed was Muslim.

    Arab does not equal Muslim, but it does seem to have been saturated into non-Arab, non-Muslim American psyches that they are one in the same.

    FinanceBuzz – How can you say that it has nothing to do with race while at the same time being a proponent for racial profiling? Racial profiling only works when “race” is involved. Go ahead and ask your colleagues about their thoughts on racial profiling that targets Arabs…I’m sure they will completely agree with you that it has nothing to do with race.

    Why do you seem so hell bent on “punching holes” in my “racial prism”? (I love that you have given my self-awareness of race a nickname. It warms my heart.)

    Dianne / DaisyDeadhead – Thanks for commenting. I think you nailed it.

  • FinanceBuzz

    Eric,

    I think you really do have the best intentions at heart with your “prism” as I call it. I am only arguing against this perspective because I really think that as long as we define so many of our problems along racial lines, how can we really come together as a society? Even with noble intentions, inserting race where it may not be a significant factor only serves to create that division. I heard an example this morning on Atlanta radio about the Michael Vick situation. Something was said about how he was supposed to appear on a particular radio show to talk to the black community because he knew where his support was coming from. His situation is not a racial situation! It should not be for those who are attacking for what he has admitted to doing and it should not be for those are who supporting him. Dog fighting has nothing to do with his race yet race has become an issue. I tire of this and this is why I speak out when I see race inserted where it may not be significant.

  • Dennis

    FB,

    re: the Michael Vick thing – you are correct in saying that dogfighting is not “racial” in the sense that it the act itself has nothing to do with race. Of course it doesn’t. Anyone can fight dogs, and it will be illegal every time.

    However, I think we should separate that from the rest of the situation. To wit:

    1) Black and white folks (especially sports journalists) have responded very differently to Vick’s case. We can argue about why that happened, but since it did, it makes sense for Vick to respond differently as well.

    2) From what I have seen of the story, it seems Vick is very concerned about what’s happening to his support among the black community, especially in Atlanta. Given that, I don’t understand how going on a radio show whose audience is that very community is a problem. I’m sure he’s given interviews and gone on shows in venues that are followed by more white people, so if anything, he is being “equal” by making sure he speaks to everyone. Why is it only an issue when he speaks to a majority-black-listener radio station?

    FB II: This is a nice little tautology:

    My position on profiling for security is not an effort to attack a race but a recognition of the realities of which group is almost exclusively responsible for radical Islamic terrorism.

    If you define terrorism as only that which comes from radical Islamists, then I think I can see why you would support racial profiling. However, as has been mentioned, terrorism is generally considered a much broader concept. For that matter, radical Islamists do not have to be Arab or from the Middle East at all. In fact, I believe it’s Indonesia that has the single greatest concentration of Muslims in the world. Should we then profile Southeast Asians?

    That, of course, gets me to another problem: Should we then profile Muslims? If yes, how do we know who to profile? Do we profile just the followers of Wahhabism? How do we know who they are? Isn’t religious profiling a bad thing? If not, I’ll ask again: Why did we not profile white Christian males after Oklahoma City?

  • FinanceBuzz

    Dennis,

    I have no problem with Michael VIck going on a “black” radio show or a “white” radio show. I hate that race has come into the issue as far as how people see things. To be honest, I think some of that attacks on getting out of hand. Yes, he committed a crime, yes he will pay a price, but the attention and vitriol this is getting is way out of proportion. I have seen less coverage for athletes that have assaulted or otherwise harmed a human being. I love dogs, but when you get down to it, he harmed dogs – not people. We had a hockey player in Atlanta several years ago in Atlanta that killed a teammate in a drunk driving accident. Granted, football around here is much bigger than hockey, but that involved a human life and it did not get this coverage. I also have no problem with people supporting in the sense that they say “Hey, you are paying your price and I disagree with what you did, but I stand behind you.” He claims he has found Christ through this, and I hope sincerely he means that. So,as a result, I think the attackers on him are way out of line.

    As for the profiling, I recognize that there are issues with implementation. I recognize it is more complicated than saying “Arabs” or “Muslims.” But I strongly believe that giving that extra bit of attention (attention that does NOT violate constitutional rights) is appropriate. To achieve fairness, I see two options: give extra attention to no one or give extra attention to all. The former is ludicrous, in my opinion, and the latter is an inefficient use of resources. As for the reaction to OKC, the incidence of such activities that have a correlation to race/religion does not seem to be as high as with the terrorism of the type we more often hear about from al Qaeda. If there was such a high incidence of correlated terror among white males, then extra scrutiny there would be in order as well. As you point out, the issue is more complicated than simply Arab or Muslim so if there are more highly correlated descriptors associated with those committing such acts of terror, then the screens can be based on those factors. Regardless, I think it is both appropriate and rational to take some additional effort in this post-9/11 period.

  • Dennis

    I have seen less coverage for athletes that have assaulted or otherwise harmed a human being. I love dogs, but when you get down to it, he harmed dogs – not people. We had a hockey player in Atlanta several years ago in Atlanta that killed a teammate in a drunk driving accident. Granted, football around here is much bigger than hockey, but that involved a human life and it did not get this coverage.

    I am very interested in this comment. I’ve heard it before, and almost exclusively from black sports commentators or black bloggers – they are wondering why white people care more about dogs than people. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with the accuracy of that, but there’s something a little off when dogs get more coverage than people given the similarity of the situation. On this I agree with you.

    As for the Murrah Building, rate of incidence aside, for McVeigh, the act of bombing the building was very much tied to his identity – very similar to the way in which the 9/11 folks had tied their identity and actions. I wonder – is that an argument for profiling, since the identity is very much related to the reason for the attack? Or is it something we should base solely on rates of occurrence?

    For that matter, when it comes to profiling, do we wait until some horrific act has happened, or should the U.S. government wait until a terrorist attack to start profiling? Shouldn’t we preemptively profile those people who declare their hatred for the government? What’s wrong with that?

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