City of Brass

Having just returned from an overseas trip, I am particularly sensitive to the issue of racial profiling of muslims by airlines. Or more colloquially, “flying while brown”. There are any number of innocent things you can do on a plane that only seem suspicious when done by a brown; be they muslim or Sikh or even Jewish. The ultimate example of this was the case of Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar, whose innocent shirt with Arabic lettering got him into trouble on a Jet Blue flight. That incident was enough for me to personally vow never to fly Jet Blue again; I am quite gratified to read that just last week, Raed was awarded $240,000 in damages from Jet Blue and the TSA for that violation of his civil liberties. It’s important to take two things away from this affair; one, that security profiling is not inherently bad, but when applied unjustly and hysterically does more harm than good to airline security, and two, that when the security procedures over-step their bounds, the justice system is there to redress the wrong. Those of us who are brown and fly often should take heart in this outcome and not wear victimization on our sleeves.

Related – post on this from the Upgrade: Travel Better blog and another by Amy Sullivan at TIME: Swampland. Also, my classic post, “suspicious things I’ve done on an airplane

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