Sunday, January 11, 2009

Self-Preservation on Airlines and Elevators

I took my oldest son to the movie last night. We saw "Defiance," which is a phenomenal picture, and I'll have more about it in a later post.

What I want to talk about here Brian's post at Incertus, "
On Flying While Arab," where he denounces racial profiling against ethinic minorities in airline safety as "racist":

Patrick Smith, who writes "Ask the Pilot" for Salon, spent the second half of his column today talking about how some American travelers are a bit too uptight when it comes to reacting to people of a particular ethnicity on airplanes.

He calls them irrational and foolish. I call them racist. And part of the reason it's a problem is because passengers get their irrational feelings reinforced by those in power. Profiling adds to the problem, because it makes the ignorant feel justified in suspecting a group of people based on nothing more than their physical appearance.
I don't really like Brian, from what I see in his essays. He embodies all that is wrong with today's brainless, politically-correct neo-Stalinism on the "progressive" left. In reading this blog, I've yet to see a post that breaks from the orthodoxy of the angry demonic partisanship of the netroots.

Now, my son and I drove to Los Angeles to see the film, which is playing exclusively at The Grove until general realease next week. We hung out at Barnes and Noble after the film was over, and headed for home around 11:00pm. The Grove is a cool Westside shopping mall with an old-town theme. We were especially impressed by the trolley cars and the outside dining by the lake and fountain. It's a country feel, amazingly, just South of Beverly Boulevard. Parking at the complex is facilitated by a huge parking structure, and as usual, we wound up parking near the top, on the 7th level. The night view over West L.A. and the Hollywood Hills was spectacular.

Anyway, as we were leaving, approaching the elevator to take us back up to the top of the structure, I noticed three black youths with heavy athletic jackets, loose jeans, and basketball shoes. I realized right then, before my son pushed the button to call the elevator car, that we'd be riding up with these guys in close proximity. I looked more carefully at them. The guys were playing with each other, having fun. There didn't seem to be an "alpha" leader of the three, and the shorter of the three friends jumped on his buddy's back and playfully bopped him on the head. I didn't notice any of sign of that big, phat urban swagger-stroll, which is inherently menacing, and it's a walk I see all too often in the classroom halls of my college. The guys weren't paying any attention to us, and I held the door open for them as we all hopped on the elevator. Another gentleman hurried to get on, and he pressed level 8 on the control panel, so I knew he'd be riding all the way to the top.

Now readers, am I racist for checking my surroundings and sizing up the safety situation for myself and my son? We rode the elevator up without incident. It was a non-event, no more significant than if a petite elderly Jewish couple had ridden up with us (keep in mind I chatted with just such a couple while waiting in line before we entered the movie house to watch the film, so the example is simply one that comes to me after seeing a movie about WWII Jewish partisans). But let's be honest? How many others out there would have waited for another elevater car? Young black male youths out for some fun at the mall on a Saturday night right? Or, gang-bangers strolling their turf while packing metal underneath their Starter jackets, or whatever other urban gear is the latest status symbol among inner-city coolsters?

Am I then "too uptight"? Well, before the PC troll police attack me for racial insensitivity, remember what Jesse Jackson, a paragon of racial sensitivity, said in 1993:

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery - then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.
My sense is that self-preservation trumps political correctness, and I think most people, culturally-aware sensitive people, would make the exact same calculations I made last night 50 miles from home, at an unfamiliar shopping center, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, on L.A.'s Westside.

But back to Brian and Arabian airline travelers: Are Americans justified in their concerns and attendent ethnic-profiling of Middle Eastern passengers on commercial airliners? Considering that almost all airline hijacking in the last 35 years (not to mention our most recent terrorist suicide attacks on 9/11) have been staged by young Middle Eastern terrorists, who can you blame?
Brian at Incertus blames the Bush adminstration's fearmonger, where ...

... our government, using the power of the TSA, has ingrained in a lot of people [an irrational fear of ethnic difference], which is that we should be more suspicious of brown people with unfamiliar names and accents who want to get on planes.
Actually, it's not irrational at all for people to worry about those who are statistically most likely to do them harm, whether this be young black youths on a cloistered elevator ride at an urban parking garage or Muslims on a post-9/11 commercial flight.

But don't mind me, I'm trying not to inflame anyone's racial sensibilities.


cracker said...

Ooooo....the "race card"

on a Neo-con blog.

How very......very

Enlightened? Orig-inalll?

Wow, I dont mean to give you a hard time on your subject matter this fine Sun. Morning,

Heck I bet your at a fine Religious establishment at this very second....ruminating on this very topic while humbled in ecstacy and fellowship.

Peace be with you

AmPowerBlog said...

Cracker: Don't you have more productive things to do than visit this bad-old neocon blog on a Sunday morning?

Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Glad you made it out of there alive Professor.

Norm said...

You would have checked out the three youths if they were white as well. Why ? Because it is perfectly normal thing to do. I have seen elderly women nervous about getting into an elevator alone with me ! I figure it was dementia or I really am a scary senior citizen.

Everyone profiles their fellow passengers on an airplane because falling out of the sky at 35,0000 feet is not exactly our idea of a vacation.

AmPowerBlog said...

I wasn't too worried, actually, Truth101. I wouldn't have gotten on the elevator if they looked genuinely threatening.

AmPowerBlog said...

Norm: I see white kids dressed the exact same way, and I certainly would have been worried in that case as well.

Laura Lee - Grace Explosion said...

Am I racist?? I was in a major city this week with others. A guy insisted on walking me to my car in the midst of a pretty nice downtown. Was that racist?? (It's mostly African American in the inner city.) I mean, is it racist to notice there's a lot of crime and it can be dangerous to walk to a person's car alone in city parking ramp?? I knew him, he was accountable, people saw him walking me to my car - that was perfectly safe. I let him walk me to my car.

I ALWAYS look around me and watch whenever I travel and am by myself. I don't care what the color of the skin is, I'm looking for a man dogging my steps or any situation in which someone is too close to me in any form of isolated situation. Is that sexist?? As a woman who travels a lot on business, I'm always watching and I will not take a risk and I will not give anyone the benefit of the doubt on the basis of, "I don't want to appear to be racist or sexist".

I've refused to work with 5 different men in my career as clients because I got bad vibes from them. As I recall, 1 was black, 1 was hispanic, 3 were white. I checked the sex offender list because I got bad vibes. In each occasion, they were on the registry because they'd committed rape. I trust my gut and I don't care who wants to call me what. Self-preservation is job one.

Laura Lee - Grace Explosion said...

Donald, I'd forgotten about this. This happened years ago in a downtown. I was walking from a parking lot around a corner to a posh downtown hotel. This group of I'd say 8-10 young black boys started hooting and hollering a bit at me... and came up to me. They were like, "You sure are pretty". And I sized them up. They were like, "Can we hang with you??" kind of a line. They were young. They were like 13 or so. I looked at them and I said, "You boys come with me. You young follow me now. We're gonna talk as I walk... and I'm gonna tell you about Jesus." And I just started to preach and tell them about the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. They looked at me in wide eyed wonder. I wonder if they still remember me. It hit 'em like lightning bolt.

;) I'd forgotten about that. lol But that reminded me of that experience - your story did.


cracker said...

Hi Dr. (good retort, made me smile)

Proudly, I'll say that I still enjoy "American Power", your style, your choice of content.

And Admittedly, Yes....even on Sun. Morning.

There are plenty of "bad old neo-con blogs out there....and I mean bad.....

American Power has the right mix, genuine political science, research and connection....along with a decent sense of righteous indignation and ownership, A right wing weigh station for those in need of a reality check.

As a Republican interested in the rejuvination of his party....
"American Power", and the rational neo-con, is either a part of the future of American destiny....or a chapter in a history periodical ...


As You and Phil both know...Preaching to the choir has always been likened to "shooting fish in Elevator" ......both approaches producing similar results.

this benefits no one : ) and so here I am.

Thanks for taking the time Dr., to share your thing.

Joubert said...

"How many others out there would have waited for another elevater car?"

Me - after having been so badly beaten by a group of 8 similar to the one you describe that I had to have reconstructive surgery.

You can't always judge by vibes - menacing or otherwise. Better safe than sorry. Yes, it is "profiling" and it works because it's based on facts and statistics.

Stogie said...

Donald asks:
"Are Americans justified in their concerns and attendent ethnic-profiling of Middle Eastern passengers on commercial airliners? Considering that almost all airline hijacking in the last 35 years (not to mention our most recent terrorist suicide attacks on 9/11) have been staged by young Middle Eastern terrorists, who can you blame?"

Yes, Americans are entirely justified in suspecting Middle Eastern passengers of being potential terrorists, especially if they are obviously Muslims. Dinesh D'Souza discussed the concept of "rational discrimination" in his book "The End of Racism" a few years back. He mentioned how taxi drivers tend to pass by black men in seedy parts of town rather than pick them up, since most cab robberies and cabbie murders were committed by black men in seedy sections of town. Black cab drivers made the same discrimination, choosin to live rather than appease the PC gods.

RATIONAL DISCRIMINATION is a valid practice that is based on self-preservation. It's why even liberals don't stroll through various ethnic ghettos in major cities in the middle of the night (black in the US, Muslim in Paris or London). They know their lives are in greater danger than if it were another section of town.

Yes, it's discrimination and there is nothing IRRATIONAL about it.

Unknown said...

Donald, one quick question aren't you black? I seem to remember you saying that once. If that is the case, or even if you are white, how does having "situational awareness" preclude racism? Seems some of your commentators need to get over themselves.

JBW said...

Let me get this straight, Grace: you've sniffed out 5 registered sex offenders with only your gut as a barometer? Either you have one of the best gut-radars in the world or you really attract the sex offender crowd. Or you're lying. I assume that it's one of the three.

Van Zan said...

Donald: My partner is of another racial group, but I do not find anything offensive about profiling unless there is a disproportionate intrusion on their civil rights, which I don't see in the case of airline safety.

Your story about the three youths doesn't make you a racist either. I'm guessing if they were three black men in suits talking about a medical conference you would not have been at all wary - so ultimately it has nothing to do with race.

I like your posts when they are in common sense non-ideological mode - where everything is not somehow a Left-wing post-modernist plot of equivalence without moral clarity. Refreshing.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's racist at all to be cautious. I do the same thing.

The Grove probably has plenty of video cameras all around, so if they did get up to anything they would be easily ID'd. Real criminals usually know this too.

As for airlines, yes, it makes sense to be wary. Vigilance is our first line of defense.

AmPowerBlog said...

Tim: I know the logic of this blog is sinking in. You'll be a GOP moderate in no time.

Unknown said...

Look, I understand that you're a marginal political science professor working at a fourth-tier institution, but I have to assume that somewhere along the line you were obliged to take some courses in quantitative analysis. So do the math. At a rough estimate, there are 5 million people of Middle-Eastern descent living in America (this not including the Indians and Pakistanis whom enthusiastic airline passengers are also apt to single out for profiling). Over the last ten years, exactly .000004 percent of that group has been responsible for hijack attempts. If I follow the logic here, it's a wonder the Secret Service is letting white males attend the inauguration, since everybody knos they've been responsible for the vast majority of presidential assassination attempts. Well, but then a person can't be too careful, can a person?

Van Zan said...


Most ordinary people who are at risk of being on a commercial airliner that could conceivably get hijacked are not the President of the Unites States, and are not well-known or political enough to draw an assassination attempt.

They are not equivalent situations.
Nice try though.