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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

It Happens To Us All the Time

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

November 23, 2010

By Perry Redd

The 24-hour news cycle has its latest “flavor of the month”…the TSA pat downs. At many airports around the nation, the Transportation Security Administration is now using full body scanner machines and also much more invasive pat-down searches. While passengers are supposed to be told that they have a right to opt out of the body scanners, in some cases, TSA employees are not giving them any other option.  People are reportedly outraged; and of course, there are those who aren’t.  My question is, why should these pat downs get people in an uproar?  This authoritative invasion of one’s person is nothing new.  It happens to black people all the time!

I don’t get it.  Law enforcement has been given the free pass to racially profile and harass Arabs, Muslims and Hispanics—all people of color—especially since 9/11.  In the name of “national security,” the practice of invasive searches have been tolerated, and poo-pooed when Americans (of foreign descent) file civil actions against government-sanctioned violators.  Now that the net has been spread to include white people—those with the fiscal resources to frequently travel—it’s an issue…a national travesty!  Where were you all when they were patting down black men on false pretenses?  So let’s examine what I’m talking about. 

One of the most controversial police procedures is the stop and frisk search. This type of limited search occurs when police confront a suspicious person in an effort to prevent a crime from taking place. The police frisk (pat down) the person for weapons and question the person (sort of like TSA is doing).  A stop is different from an arrest. An arrest is a lengthy process in which the suspect is taken to the police station and booked, whereas a stop involves only a temporary interference with a person’s liberty (sort of like at the airports now). If the officer uncovers further evidence during the frisk, the stop may lead to an actual arrest, but if no further evidence is found, in theory, the person is released.  Unlike a full search, a frisk is generally limited to a patting down of the outer clothing. If the officer feels what seems to be a weapon (or a prosthesis, or a pacemaker), the officer may then reach inside the person’s clothing. If no weapon is felt, again in theory, the search may not intrude further than the outer clothing.

Now, this is a law that’s been on the books since 1968.  It’s been overly used on black men, in black neighborhoods—both legally and illegally—for decades, but courts overwhelmingly uphold law enforcement’s use of the practice.  At this point in history, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court has basically wiped out any limitations that exist for the police—including the Fourth Amendment!  They’ve been routinely patting us down—with no viable provocation—for years.

As backlash against airline passenger pat downs intensified with an viral online video, the nation’s top airline security official said Monday that his agency is walking a fine line between privacy concerns and public safety.  A short video clip circulating on the internet shows a shirtless boy—yes, a boy!—receiving a pat down from a Transportation Security Administration agent. His father watches, hands on his hips, obstructing part of the view.  What part of the game is this? 

So what I see is that when whites are effected by faulty practices, policies and laws, then, and only then, does it become a problem.  If those people planning to protest at airports on Wednesday try it, let’s watch to see if they’re arrested and cited for “disrupting government operations” or something like that?  I doubt it, I truly doubt it.  Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols didn’t get a pat down.  No, they weren’t passing through an airport, but they were white.  Terrorism can come from anywhere, but you can’t convince the average white American of that.


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