avatar
Affecting Privilege: TSA, Race and Beyond


I have been following the news on the TSA controversy. I saw Congressman Ron Paul’s comments. Dr. No spoke of an intrusive government. And like most I have been disgusted by TSA policies. The video of the young boy being forced to strip by TSA agents was disturbing. No wonder over 900 complaints have been filed with the ACLU. But if we are really worried about intrusive TSA policies then we shouldn’t blame them on security and terrorism. We should get to the root and blame the imperial and capitalist policies that breed hatred and resentment against us; if we are not occupying or supporting foreign tyrannies then there is no need to be so intrusive with airplane passengers.
 
About a week or so ago I read Glen Ford’s article on this over at the Black Agenda Report website. He made the point that,
 
"I spend much of my time in New York City, where about 600,000 pedestrians, the vast majority of them Black or Latino and male, will be accosted by cops, by the end of this year. There is an eight-block area in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where 50,000 stops were made over two years, many if not most involving the same Black, male neighborhood residents over and over again.
 
"But it gets worse. In Philadelphia, a city one-sixth the size of New York, at least 200,000 mostly Black, male pedestrians are stopped each year. That means, if Philly were New York-sized, the cops would be stopping and frisking 1.2 million people on the streets each year, twice as many as in the Big Apple. This is stop-and-frisk gone wild, used as a weapon of racial bullying and control, and as an intake valve for Black mass incarceration, sending huge proportions of Black males into institutions where they don't render you naked electronically, but up close and personal, at any and all times the prison authorities see fit, and where visiting family members are subject to have their bodily orifices explored."

 
His point is that, yeah, it's messed up, but black folks have been enduring it for years. Not at airports but in their own communities and not by airport security but by the police.

I have also noticed that the vast majority of those shown complaining are white people. Surely there are non-whites who are bothered by the TSA policies and I don’t really know whether a certain demographic is being targeted for sexual reasons. It’s possible. We live in a very sexist society. But what is clear is that most of the victims they show on TV, or in the paper, or online, are white.
 
The young boy being forced to strip? White.
 

 
Christopher Hitchens recently wrote about this over at Slate. What color do you think the woman shown as an image is? Look:
 

 
How about this woman?
 
© d.yimg.com
 
This one? 


 
This guy?
 

 
This elderly woman?
 

 
Or this one?
 

 
These are random searches. Other than the young boy—and because his story is one of the most popular— and the Hitchens story, I took the first images provided in searches like “TSA frisks/gropes man/woman.”
 
Maybe I am wrong, but it seems a lot of the outrage is race-centric. What about the blacks and Latinos in Philly and New York? What about the Muslim-looking men at airports? Where has Ron Paul and mainstream media pundits been? Using the Propaganda Model, would you expect to see equal coverage for nonwhite people harassed at airports and in urban areas? Or unequal coverage that prioritizes whites? I don’t have the time to filter and view all the stories to see but I will bet that it’s the latter.
 
Some, apologists or racists, may say blacks are more violent or involved in crime and that’s why the police targets them. Or they may say Muslims are more prone to violence and terrorism than, say white Christian Americans. Tim Wise has commented on this before:

"There have been over one hundred twenty-five family planning centers, some of which provide abortion services, many of which do not, that have been bombed or burned in the last twenty years. According to the FBI, every single one of them a have been white, they have mostly been men, and they claim to be Christian… [Different lecture for a different night] One hundred twenty-five or more, one hundred twenty-five plus McVeigh and Nichols is one twenty-seven. Unabomber is one twenty-eight. Eric Rudolph is one twenty-nine. One hundred twenty-nine confirmed terrorists who are white in this country in the last twenty years. It sticks to nobody who is white. Nineteen Arab Muslims and it sticks to everyone who is either, seven-hundred million Arab folk on the planet, a billion-point-five Muslims on the planet. To assume that we know something about them based on the acts of nineteen is to commit what any statistician will tell you is sampling error. It is mathematical illiteracy, and yet we do it because we can."

This is not surprising. In a society still bent on white privilege/supremacy, we should expect to see this double-standard. White Christians can blow up abortion clinics, federal buildings or fly planes into IRS buildings (i.e. Joe Stack) and not be singled out for harassment. And we see this attitude not just with race but with class too. Poor people have been struggling with the economy since time began but the “crisis” didn’t start until those banks that are “too big to fail” started feeling the pinch. Then it was a problem. Income inequality has been growing out of control for years but it wasn't until the banks lost $13 trillion (due to their own schemes) that we called it a "crisis" and rushed to their rescue. Even now unemployment benefits might expire but you don’t see Congress scurrying to address the problem of not only the benefits, but unemployment. Racial profiling and physical harassment only becomes a problem that gets our politicians and media’s attention when it affects the privileged; then it’s a crisis. And so long as we have a society plagued with hierarchy, domination and exploitation we shouldn’t expect to see anything else.

Leave a comment