Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Racial Profiling Diminishes Everyone

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Racial Profiling Diminishes Everyone

Article excerpt

A Columbia University professor who wears a turban and beard in accordance with his Sikh faith was chased and attacked on a New York City street recently by a group of young men he said yelled, "Get him!" "Osama" and "terrorist." Prabhjot Singh, who is also medical doctor, said in published reports that he was eventually surrounded and " hit to the ground with punches to the face and torso." In a piece for the New York Daily News, he wrote of being saved by bystanders, though he suffered a fractured jaw and other injuries.

A producer for National Public Radio's "On the Media" program was returning by car from a wedding in Canada last month with friends and family when the six of them - all Americans - were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at Niagara Falls. They said they were held for six hours, interrogated, searched, demeaned and never told why. On Sept. 20, the producer, Sarah Abdurrahman, a Muslim from Texas, reported on that experience and a similar one that happened to a carload of friends returning from the same wedding and detained at the Detroit border.

One man in the radio report said it happens each time he enters the country, and leaves him feeling helpless and dehumanized. One said his anger grows with each incident, along with sadness, depression and hopelessness: "I just felt like, 'I do not deserve this. I am not a criminal. I am not in possession of anything illegal,' " he said. " 'I am an American. Open the damn door and let me back home.' "

What most frustrates Ms. Abdurrahman is the lack of answers and the lack of accountability demanded of the perpetrators. According to her report, the Department of Homeland Security's civil rights unit investigated alleged Border Patrol violations and exonerated its agents but redacted the reasons.

Profiling isn't just the work of street thugs or federal agents, and it isn't just against Muslims in head scarves or Sikhs in turbans. In Des Moines, Iowa, Martie Brooks, an African-American woman, was followed out of a Fareway supermarket by employees after paying for her groceries. She was escorted back in, falsely accused of shoplifting and held until she could produce a receipt. …

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