As the social and political structure of America continues to evolve, racism has remained a prevalent issue in society for many years. Racial discrimination against certain ethnic groups has led to a bevy of unethical acts that have created tension among authorities and minorities. Since the 9/11 attacks, government officials have unfairly targeted and racially profiled Arabs and Muslims in America. Labeled as terrorists by many government officials, Arabs have become constant victims to strict security measures and anti-terrorist laws, which have invaded their liberty, equality and rights as citizens. Thus, anti-terrorist legislation has perpetuated racial discrimination against Arabs by victimizing and profiling them based on their appearance. Thus, by revamping security measures through advanced technology and high level training, authorities and law officials can eliminate racial profiling, which will significantly minimize the onset of racial discrimination improve the overall social infrastructure of America.
September 11, 2001 was a devastating event that radically changed the racial dynamics between Muslim groups and Americans. The 9/11 attacks, Initiated by al-Qaeda, an Islamic terrorist group, claimed the lives of over 3,000 Americans after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and one plane hit the Pentagon and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania (CNN Library: “September 11th Fast Facts”). Thus, this event marked the beginning of a long raid of racial tension between Arabs and the American public. The authorities and media sensationalized the backlash against Arabs by referring to them as a threat and danger to American safety. This further incited racial conflict and controversy among the public, which led to negative views about Arabs and ultimately mistreatment of ethnic groups.
Thus, many Arabs were viewed as a threat and alienated from the American public. Ultimately, these immoral and illegal acts symbolized the rooted racism against Arabs in America, especially after the 9/11 attacks. Many Arabs were viewed as a threat and alienated from the American public.
According to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab Americans are still highly discriminated against in many areas of society including airports, employment, schools and media portrayals. Since 2002, the ADC has received over 130 complaints each year regarding violence and discrimination against Arab Americans. Thus, stricter security measures only perpetuates the cycle of racial discrimination, which leads to unlawful detention, hate crimes and ethnic profiling of Arabs. Ethnic profiling is defined as “monitoring or detaining individuals on the grounds that they belong to a particular ethnic group” (Bou-Habib 149). This profiling practice used by many law enforcement officers has unfairly targeted and profiled Arabs and Muslims due to their physical appearance, which authorities view as a threat and danger to American society. Thus, ethnic profiling has violated many Arabs’ liberty and quality of life as they are mistreated and outcast from other citizens. The constant practice of profiling further leads to conflicts and controversy regarding equal rights and racial discrimination among minority groups.
Furthermore, strict anti-terrorist laws serve to perpetuate the cycle of racial discrimination and inequalities in the social system of America. Instead of serving as protection and national security, the laws have led many minorities to fear a system that views them as suspicious and possible suspects of terrorist activity. This only adds to conflict and separation among citizens as many people in society are told to be fearful of certain minorities. Thus, strict security measures and racial profiling of Arabs have violated their equal rights and liberties.
An extension to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is yet another unfair mechanism that the government used to pose challenges to travelers and perpetuate racial profiling among certain minorities. The new restriction to the act prohibits citizens of 38 countries, mainly nationals of Iran, Iraq and Arab origins from visiting the U.S. without a visa. This is a radical change to the original VWP plan, which allowed citizens of those 38 countries who had strong relationships with the U.S. to visit the country up to 90 days without a visa, which gave access to over 20 million foreigners. But the new restriction not only affects foreigners but also adversely affects travel among American citizens. Thus, citizens of specified national origins of Iran, Sudan, Syria or Iraq will be burdened with new, unfair visa requirements. Ultimately, the new restriction strips away the liberties of some citizens and further perpetuates racial and ethnic profiling.
Yet the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016, passed by the Obama Administration helps to eliminate unfair requirements on travel, particularly for nationals of Middle-Eastern backgrounds. The Obama administration plans to work to revise the provisions to prevent unfair restrictions that may be a form of ethnic or racial profiling while keeping key security enhancements of the Visa Waiver Program (H.R.4380: Equal Protection and Travel Act of 2016). The act would also prevent any harm that the new provision will cause among humanitarian workers who travel frequently to help underrepresented and impoverished people from different countries. Essentially, the Equal Protection in Travel Act 2016 seeks to reduce traveling conflicts and challenges that will significantly affect American citizens, particular nationals of Iran, Arab, Iraq and other middle-eastern citizens. Thus, this will ultimately help to aid in minimizing the onset of racial profiling against particular minorities and protect the civil liberties of these American citizens.
But many proponents of strict security measures and racial profiling contend that targeting certain individuals who appear to be terrorists will help to ensure the protection and safety of the public. They feel that it is essential to have knowledge of the image associated with that of a terrorist to make informed legal decisions. For instance, stricter security at airlines have changed the airport process for many Americans. Stricter background checks and tougher security requirements on baggage checks and identification show the ways in which anti-terrorist laws have helped to reduce terrorist activity and threat of bombs being brought onto planes (Bou-Abib 152). According to the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), proponents of anti-terrorist laws feel justified in targeting Arabs because they feel as if many terrorist organizations originate from Islamic ideology from Middle Eastern culture. Thus, they feel that it is smart and effective to target or profile Arabs and Muslims because they fit the criteria of a terrorist.
But recent advances in technology have allowed law officials to track and Baum, director of Green Light Limited, a London-based aviation security training and consultancy company, argued that effective profiling should be based on behavorial patterns, how someone acts and inspection of itinerary and passports and not based on race, religion or nationality (Baum, “Common Sense Profiling Works”). Thus, as technology continues to grow and advance, it has become increasingly important for government officials and law enforcement officers to implement new technology trends that will allow them to effectively track potential terrorists or threats.
Thus, Baum recommends implementing a more intelligent technologically savvy approach to airline security, which will help authorities make risk assessments and use proper technology for screening purposes instead of racial profiling that intentionally screens certain individuals based on a stereotypical image. Also, Press argued that racial profiling methods only “draw enforcement resources away from the actual terrorist, so that fewer actual terrorists are caught” (167). Thus, Press suggests that government officials and law enforcement officers implement a uniform sampling strategy, which will work to measure the likelihood of an individual to commit a crime and will prevent any instance of racial profiling and discrimination against certain minority groups (167).
Essentially, racial discrimination is an ongoing issue in American society. As a result of the 9/11 attacks, many Americans have become suspicious and have formed prejudiced and negative views of Arabs and Muslims, which have led to unethical security measures that unfairly targets them. Thus, this form of ethnic profiling infringes upon their equal rights and liberties as American citizens. Although proponents of strict security measures and racial profiling argue that it is in the best interest of the public to identify potential terrorists based solely on appearance, the practice only perpetuates negative stereotypes and racial discrimination against certain ethnic groups. But through a more technologically advanced security system, authorities can minimize the use of racial profiling, which will create a more equal and ethically sound social and political structure in America.
- Baum, Philip. “Common Sense Profiling Works.” The New York Times, 4 January 2010.
- Bou-Habib, Paul. “Security, Profiling and Equality.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 11.2 (2008): 149-164. DOI: 10.1007/s10677-007-9078-2.
- Press, William. “To Catch a Terrorist: Can Ethnic Profiling Work?” Significance, 7.4 (2010):
- Toosi, Nahal. “Lawmakers move to protect Iran, Arab Diaspora from New Visa Rules.” 13
- CNN Library. “September 11th Fast Facts.” CNN. 11 September 2013
- International Debate Education Association. “Ethnic Profiling is a Just Means of Preventing
- Congress.Gov. H.R.4380 – Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016.
- Library of Congress. “Summaries for the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016.” 25 January