Why Ethnic Profiling is Both Stupid and Wrong

Response to Chicago Tribune’s “Why politically correct profiling is stupid”

In his column “Why politically correct profiling is stupid,” (Aug. 1) Charles Krauthammer writes, “The fact is that jihadist terrorism has been carried out from Bali to Casablanca to Madrid to London to New York City to Washington by young Islamic men of North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin.” Using this “fact” to justify ethnic profiling is like using the “fact” that Japan attacked the United States to justify internment camps for Japanese Americans; or using the “fact” that blacks are intellectually inferior to justify segregation.

If Krauthammer truly cares for the utmost security of this nation, he would demand all citizens be screened everywhere to avoid any and all attacks, no matter the cost and inconvenience. This would be the most effective way to stop all terrorism, weather it be carried out by someone like Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph, or by someone like the 9/11 hijackers. Fortunately this idea would be lauded as ludicrous by most, just like the idea that stopping only all men of North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin would end terrorism.

According to the Wikipedia list of terrorist incidents, from 1990 to 2005, there were three terrorist attacks on U.S. soil carried out by individuals Krauthammer would not profile. This includes the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games bombing. One would expect after reading Krauthammer’s column that the number of attacks carried out by people of Arab or South Asian descent to be far greater than three. Yet during the same time period, there were only four terrorist attacks on American soil carried out by the people he wants to profile.

There are more terrorist attacks during this period against the United States, but the only ones that can be stopped through ethnic profiling are the ones within its own borders. According to the statistics, Krauthammer is as right to call for profiling of young Arab and South Asian Muslim men at airports as he is right to call for profiling of white, 24-35 year-old Catholic men around federal government buildings, abortion clinics and Olympic Games.

The IRA for over 30 years continuously attacked Britain, killing over 1700 people. Yet there was never a call made by people like Krauthammer to profile Irish Catholics. Why should American and British citizens and residents of a particular descent suddenly become suspected terrorists for the actions of a few?

The United States learned from WWII that internment camps can never be justified just as it learned that segregation is wrong. But calls like Krauthammer’s completely ignore the past lessons of this country. “Useless indignities” are not suffered when an 83-year-old grandmother from Poughkeepsie is screened to ensure that all are treated equally; “useless indignities” occur when no one but 20-year-old Arab- and South-Asian Americans are stopped.