December 4, 2004
Written by C.N.
Originally posted July 2004
Annie Jacobsen was a passenger on a Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit to Los Angeles when she witnessed what she interpreted as fourteen Middle Eastern men acting suspiciously — talking amongst themselves, frequently looking around the cabin of the plane, and using the restroom quite frequently. Apparently she interpreted these events as the beginnings of a terrorist attack and was so freaked out by these “traumatic” events that she wrote,
What I experienced during that flight has caused me to question whether the United States of America can realistically uphold the civil liberties of every individual, even non-citizens, and protect its citizens from terrorist threats.
As it turns out, these fourteen men were Syrian musicians who were on their way to pay a concert at a casino and resort in San Diego, CA. Nonetheless, she wrote an article that has received extensive attention and has led to strong reactions from both sides of the ideological debate on homeland security. On the one hand, many ultra-conservatives have applauded her reaction as perfectly legitimate and appropriate.
Well, guess what. I (and millions of others) happen to disagree. Instead, we think Ms. Jacobsen severely overreacted and let her racial/ethnic prejudices override her sound judgment. Once again, we see another example of how racial profiling gets played out in American society and of how the actions of a few become transposed and associated with all members of a certain group.
To me, her reaction is no different than the hate crimes and physical attacks on Muslim Americans and their property that occurred immediately after the September 11 attacks — the actions of a group of ignorant, hysterical, and/or close-minded people who, in the absence of any proof that the subjects of their anger or suspicion are guilty of anything except being Muslim, are so quick to immediately jump the gun and conclude that they must be evil terrorists out to destroy America.
Instead of wondering if the U.S. can uphold civil liberties, perhaps Ms. Jacobsen should instead wonder how she became so hopelessly prejudicial and xenophobic in the first place.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Jumping the Gun" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2004/12/jumping-the-gun/> ().
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