Traveling on an airline is a difficult experience for everyone just now, but especially for those of obvious Arabic descent. This is not just because Americans are prejudiced, but because there is an enemy who pretends to be part of our culture in order to destroy lives form within. This is unfortunate, but it is a fact; these individuals are of an specific ethnic distinction.
A close friend shared an interesting experience at the Dallas airport that raised a surprising reaction from me. While patiently waiting for her flight, my friend was able to observe the actions and even conversation of one particular co-traveler. While listening to him discuss the hassles of flying for those of obvious Arabic descent, she was unobtrusively noticing the security procedures.
The traveler commented to his companion his readiness to be accosted by security officials, and sure enough, as he approached the check point, no less than 6 security official, who had been standing around with nothing better to do than chatter with one another, quickly descended upon him to run their detectors over him.
I don’t want to be judged for what I look like, nor who my ancestors were. I understand that I will be perceived to be in specific groups, and that what others in those groups do will impact the preconceived ideas that others have of what I may be like: Just because I am an American woman does not mean I am a Feminist, but some people will assume so, and this makes me angry. As I heard about this incident, I was outraged for this man.
My friend is very observant, and continued her story with notations of how other travelers had been reacting to him. It was her consideration that perhaps the airline harassed him with purpose, not to satisfy their personal prejudices, but to allow other passengers a sense of security.
There is always more than one side to any event including more then one person. This time, there were more then two and I, in my need to see all people treated with respect, did not consider. How would I feel if I was one of the other passengers on the plane? Not someone who had the opportunity to hear him speak with a companion, getting a feel for his “Everyman” sense of being, but one who only observed him form a distance with pre-conceived fears already brewing in my all-too-human brain?
I do not assume every individual of Arabic descent is a terrorist, but I do have to wonder since I have met those who told me “I had no idea he was connected to terrorists. He seemed so nice!” I also realize that people wonder about me, based on specific qualities and what others who share those qualities have done. This is a two way street and, not being perfect, humans understand the world in terms of generalizations. It is how we react to those within each situation that makes the difference between us and bigots.
Bigots are loud mouths and trouble makers, and there is as likely to be one on a plane ans there is an individual of obvious Arabic descent. How does an airline address the potential in-the-sky conflagration between prejudices and realistic fears? Apparently by making a public spectacle on the ground.
As my friend noted at the end of her tale, “I wonder if they did that so other passengers would know he had been thoroughly checked so they wouldn’t feel as anxious.” I was so busy being angry on behalf of that stranger, I hadn’t even thought about all the others on that plane.
I can’t say that I agree with what happened. If it hadn’t been for the fact that that individual had obviously done a great deal of traveling in recent years and expected such a reaction, he could have himself been traumatized. Being Arabic does not by necessity negate being sensitive. If that had happened to me, they would have had to cart me off screaming form my own terror at being accosted.
There is no easy answer. I don’t even know if there is really a “right” or “wrong” here. These times are what they are. We have exactly as much control over the actions of terrorists as we do over the hearts and minds of mankind. What we do have control over is our own selves.
My Arabic brothers and sisters in peace, please forgive the fear your fellows have placed on these current times. We want to believe each of you is a compatible piece in beautiful jigsaw puzzle of beautiful differences, but, alas, we cannot. My fellow Americans, of whatever sub-group you consider yourself, be aware of the horrors placed upon the lives of others for the sake of a few. Be afraid if you need to, but once there is clarity, make it a point to be kind! You do not want to be held responsible for the sins of your fathers, do not do the same to others or you will be worse than the sins of your own fathers.
Each of us can make a difference. These kind of events are likely to continue, if not for those of obvious Arabic descent, then another group. We have seen this done to Japanese and Germans, to dark skinned and almond eyed, to speakers of foreign languages and those who simply do not speak our own with obvious education. We have all known the sting of prejudice, as well as the bite that leads to bigotry. Do not forget this when you look across the way into eyes you do not understand. Peace comes from one individual to another, not form nation to nation.