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Brown Skin + Heavy Coat + Backpack = ?

Op-ed pieces by New York newspaper reporters Paul Sperry, Charles Krauthammer, and Haim Watzman endorsed the practice of using ethnicity, national origin and religion as primary factors in deciding whom police should regard as possible terrorists - in other words - racial profiling.


Krauthammer blasted the random-bag-checks program adopted in the New York subway in response to the London bombings, calling it absurd and a waste of effort and resources. His answer: Security officials should concentrate on "young Muslim men of North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin." He argued that authorities should work backward and "eliminate classes of people who are obviously not suspects." In the category of the innocent, Krauthammer would place children younger than 13, people older than 60 and "whole ethnic populations" starting with "Hispanics, Scandinavians and East Asians . . . and women," except "perhaps the most fidgety, sweaty, suspicious-looking, overcoat-wearing, knapsack-bearing young women."


Sperry has his own proxy for suspicious characters. He warned security and subway commuters to be on the lookout for "young men praying to Allah and smelling of flower water." Keep your eyes open, he said, for "a shaved head or short haircut" or a recently shaved beard or moustache. Men who look like that, in his book, are "the most suspicious train passengers."


Watzman argued that the London police officer who chased down and put seven bullets into the head of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes without asking him any questions or giving him any warning "did the right thing." In their heightened state of anxiety, witnesses reported that Menezes was dressed in a heavy coat and acting suspiciously - jumping over the ticket gate before bolting from armed officers toward a train. Police also said that he failed to obey their instructions. British ITV news, citing closed circuit footage, said that Menezes was dressed in a denim jacket and walked casually into Stockwell subway station, stopping to pick up a newspaper before riding the escalator down and running to board his train.


So while advocates of racial profiling would have authorities subject men and women of black and brown hues to close scrutiny for criminal suspicion, the following would pass the Krauthammer/Sperry eyeball test for terrorists with ease:


• White male Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people, including 19 children, and damaged 220 buildings


• White male Dennis Rader, the "bind, torture, kill" (BTK) serial killer who terrorized Wichita for 31 years


• Washington D.C. born-and-raised white male John Walker Lindh, who converted to Islam and was captured in Afghanistan fighting for the Taliban


• Those "non-Arab, non-South Asians without black or brown skins" Muslims from Chechnya who've taken down passenger jets, hijacked schools and used female suicide bombers to kill hundreds and wound thousands in Russia


• The IRA bombers who killed and wounded hundreds; the neo-fascist bombers who killed 80 people and injured nearly 300 in Bologna, Italy; and the truck bombings in Colombia by Pedro Escobar's gang.


As Colbert I. King wrote in the Washington Post last month:


"What the racial profilers are proposing is insulting, offensive and - by thought, word and deed, whether intentional or not - racist. You want estrangement? Start down that road of using ethnicity, national origin and religion as a basis for police action and there's going to be a push-back unlike any seen in this country in many years."


- Info compiled from various internet and print news sources



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Taken on August 19, 2005