Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Flying While Brown

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Flying While Brown

Article excerpt

At a Friday, June 7, ADC conference presentation, Mohammed Ali, a victim of airline passenger discrimination, and his lawyer, Christy Lopez of Relman and Associates, described various cases where Arab (or Arablooking) Americans were removed from passenger aircraft on discriminatory grounds.

Lopez laid the groundwork for the discussion by differentiating between two separate but related issues: profiling and discrimination. Profiling, she explained, occurs when airline personnel pinpoint an individual as a potential security threat based on his or her race or religion. Post-9/11 airline passenger paranoia has given rise to an unprecedented number of profiling cases, she claimed, where Arab passengers appear suspicious for talking too much, or for talking too little. While they supposedly are "randomly checked," she stated, in reality, the checks are not random at all. "We must have a strong and consistent voice that says this is not right and not legal," she said, since security threats are not based on ethnicity.

Discrimination goes one step--an illogical step--further, Lopez continued. She described three lawsuits that have been brought against the airlines to illustrate discrimination. In one case, a man of Saudi Arabian descent flew from California to New York. He passed through all the security checks with no problems and boarded the plane. He experienced difficulties with putting his bag in the overhead bin and was approached by an airline attendant, who asked, "Where are you flying to?" When he replied, "Saudi Arabia," he was swiftly removed from the plane. "We know it was not about security," Lopez explained, "because his bags were left on the plane."

In a second case, a man of Arab descent was flying to San Francisco. He was pulled from the boarding line, Lopez said, because his name appeared on a list. The FBI was called to conduct a background check and, upon finding nothing suspicious, he was cleared. The airline pilot, however, refused to allow him to board the plane. "He was found guilty although proven innocent," Lopez said.

In a third case of airline discrimination, "there were simply too many brown people near the front of the plane," Lopez claimed, including an Indian, a Filipino and a South American. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.