Allowing racism after 9/11

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In a post 9/11 world, racism has suddenly become forgivable. The targets this time are, of course, people of Middle Eastern or sub-continental origin who are deemed to be Muslim. And not just Muslim, but fanatical fundamentalist extremists out to destroy western civilization and kill and maim as many of us as they can in the process. Interestingly enough, “us” right now means North Americans of both European and African descent, as well as in certain cases those of Asian background. Just about anyone I guess, other than those you might call flavour of the month!

And of course that doesn’t apply to enlightened concerned liberal people who believe in all the tenets of the constitution and support the ACLU – like you and me. Or does it? When you’re in the airport departure lounge do you check out visible minorities? Shortly after the attack on the towers I watched an interview with a pilot for one of this country’s largest airlines. He happened to be African American and he was deeply troubled by the fact that now he checked out seemingly Middle Eastern passengers and worried about them and often double checked them with the security people. And he admitted that he was participating in racial profiling – a practice he had fought against and detested all his life.

Surely he and we – who may indulge in this but more secretly – can be forgiven. After all, more than 2,000 people did die in the Towers. It was Muslim fanatics who caused it. We are at war with Iraq, which may inflame other fanatics into retribution.

No sorry, we can’t be forgiven. It is not acceptable. The order for the registration of people of certain national origin is undemocratic, unacceptable and (dare I say it) un-American. No, the good Muslim cannot be distinguished from the fanatic. Neither can s/he be distinguished from a lot of Italian American Catholics, Greek Orthodox Christians, Spanish atheists or Welsh covenanters. Every country and culture produces olive skinned, dark eyed brunettes. So discrimination on the basis of coloring is not only abhorrent, it’s inefficient. It might be your own cousin you end up dissing.

So we move from picking on people on the basis of complexion to national origin. What a waste! I heard on this radio station only last month a young student born in Pakistan but living in America since the age of four, admitting terror at the thought of registering because she was sure it would lead to deportation to a country of which she had no knowledge. Maybe registration won’t lead to deportation for most but it certainly is reasonable to believe it might. The Canadian government has strongly protested to the American government the practice of asking such identifying questions of Canadians at U.S. entry points. It’s contrary to the Canadian constitution and it would be anathema to Canadians to allow two classes of citizenship.

There are millions of Americans and Canadians who were born in Muslim countries who still speak with the accent of their native land who live and work and raise their families in harmony with those of us who got here a little sooner. They are not terrorists and they don’t deserve to be treated as such.

And as for all those people waiting near U.S.-Canada border points to be processed as refugees to Canada from the U.S: it’s ludicrous and wrong. Yes we must fight terrorism with every just means available, but discrimination and racism are not just means and they diminish America in the eyes of the world. With all its faults, America – its constitution, its history and its culture – is the last best hope in a frightening and dangerous world. These actions against people of the Islamic faith will tarnish that hope, even more than the war in Iraq, and they will cause other, more dangerous repercussions. In the name of everything we all hold dear, this has to stop.

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