Out of every negative comes a positive. And something positive has come from the Professor Henry Gates arrest. We are learning more about racial profiling. And we are discussing it. It serves all of us well to know as much as we can about what happens, every day, to a certain segment of our population. The 911 tapes have been released. With this release, more questions are being asked. They should be asked.
I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine, and ask you a question.
How much intimidation would you take before you became agitated?
After a nice long weekend visit, he attempted to fly home. He is a young African American college student who relies on no one. He has been supporting himself since he was 16 years old. He takes pride in his accomplishments and is a good employee. He was worried about being late for work so he booked a flight that left our local airport at about noon. He arrived at the airport early to get through security.
The TSA prodding started as soon as he got into the security line.
They asked about his hair.
They asked if they could search his bags. He consented.
They confiscated his bottled water.
They asked for his ID. He gave it to them. They asked him to sit down while they took his ID to some unknown location.
He waited. And waited. They returned about twenty minutes later and gave him back his ID.
My friend started asking questions. He asked the TSA officer why they were holding him? What had he done wrong? He started to feel embarrassed as the other passengers were staring at him.
He told them he was "embarassed."
The TSA officer asked him why he was agitated. He told them he was worried about missing his flight. He needed to get home to work. After more questions, they finally told him he was clear to leave so he picked up his backpack and started to run to the gate.
They yelled at him and told him to stop. He stopped and they brought him back to the screening area. They told him he was too agitated to fly. He disagreed with them. They had already held him for about 45 minutes and the plane was boarding.
The TSA then brought in the airlines rep. They let her decide if he could fly. She decided he could not.
My friend became angry. He threw down his ID and exclaimed "This is bullshit."
He was arrested. He suffered the humiliation of being handcuffed and marched through the security area into a holding cell. His worst offense was saying the word "bullshit."
He was held at the airport for about four hours before he was transferred to the metro jail. He was charged with disorderly conduct.
He missed his plane. He missed work. He lost much needed income. He now has to come back, travelling hundreds of miles, to appear in court. He has had to find a lawyer and may have to pay a fine.
At what point would you have become agitated? Do we no longer have the right to ask our accusers what they are accusing us of? Has the TSA become too powerful?
I don't think anyone would have reacted any differently than my friend did. No one likes to miss a plane.
But he was flying-while-Black.