If you thought the process of taking off your shoes and removing your laptop were the biggest issues you had to face passing through U.S. aiport security checkpoints, think again.

New to the list of security measures taken by federal authorities is the use of full-body scanning devices; said to be capable of detecting objects concealed beneath our clothes. As of now, forty of these units are in use at 19 major airports around the country; with more (approximately 450 more over the next year) on the way. The technology has actually been in place for a few years now, but many airports have been reluctant to install the machines; partially due to privacy concerns raised by elected officials and civil liberties groups. Opposing arguments generally suggest that these full body scans are intrusive, invade personal rights, and have not been proven as an effective tool in thwarting terrorism.

Others – not the least of which includes the humble host of this blog – consider the measure an additional step in ensuring the safety of airline passengers. I’ll be doing some traveling over the holidays. Truth be told, I’d rather have my privacy – and the privacy of those around me – violated for a moment if our safety and well-being were even slightly less compromised by the potential threat of terrorists. While I certainly appreciate the spirit of the Constitution and our civil liberties, I maintain that the founding fathers could have never predicted this new age of terror; an age where it is virtually impossible to make the distinction between friend and foe. In one of my previous posts regarding racists and their ability to easily blend in with the crowd, I noted that “…since the practice of racism is no longer solely within the province of the Klan, I’m often left wondering who I should be on the lookout for. These days, hooded sheets are being replaced with jeans, dresses, and pinstriped suits.” That sentiment holds especially true for terrorists. On that principle, I actually agree pretty strongly with conservatives – believe it or not. In our age of political correctness (and an age where minimal travel inconveniences and maximum civil liberties are expected), we tend to dismiss counter-terrorism measures like full-body scans as being intrusive, time-consuming, and inconvenient without also factoring in the potential safety implications. Well, not me! I’ve missed my fair share of flights because of delays in security. But all told, I’d rather go through the process of missing a flight than to experience the process of…oh, I don’t know…blowing up. Just me.

If civil liberties win out and we stop subjecting people to full-body scans, where would we be? If another Christmas-Day terrorist exposed our security, would we be a little easier on TSA, since it was our opposition to new (yet, “invasive”) technologies that was complicit in a terrorist attact? If this new technology does adequately trace dangerous objects, would we still turn it down?

Besides all that, under the current system everybody who passes through the scanners is subjected to the same treatment. That way (in the interest of maintaining the type of political correctness which has become a recurrent theme in American social and political discourse), we can avoid addressing the elephant in the room: profiling against Muslims who ‘look’ the part.

Candor dictating, I’d prefer to see both measures taken. I’m 100% on board with full-body scans. Meanwhile, though supportive to a degree, I’m not as indisputibly in favor of specifically profiling Muslims (if I had to quantify it, I’d say I’m about 65% in favor of it). In the end, I see it as a necessary evil. But I’m not completely bad, I assure you. If you’ve followed my blog over the years, you’d see that I firmly believe that improper profiling – i.e. focusing ALL your efforts on one group – is a flawed and potentially dangerous model which allows people “above suspicison” free reign to engage in destructive behavior unchecked. The following scene from the comedy “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood” perfectly (and humorously) illustrates my point:

However [and at the risk of repeating talking points]…

…we know there are folks of Arabic descent and/or Muslims in this world who subscribe to radical and violent tenants.

…we know airplanes are among the vulnerable targets attacked by these types of terrorists.

What we don’t know is whether the Arabs and/Muslims with whom we interact at airports are terrorists or average, peace-minded people. For me, the most immediate response is to dismiss any uncertainties I may harbor, especially since not a single Arab and/or Muslim I know is even close to being a terrorist. In fact, they are completely the opposite and represent some of the kindest people I know. Unfortunately though, none of us are clairvoyants who can see a person’s heart, know their motives, and read their thoughts. Unfortuately, there are no clearly distinctive looks or qualities to a person that help in positively identifying the evil amongst us. In the absence of that ability to positively weed out the worst of the group, profiling is a sensible (though bigoted) option.

In the movie Crash, there is a scene where a young black thug (played by rapper Ludacris) attempts to car jack a man’s SUV (played by Terrence Howard). After the young thug’s attempt fails, Howard’s character chastises the young black man saying “You embarass me. You embarass yourself.”  This quote, to me, represents the reality of the world. Whether we like it or not, whether it’s our intention or not; a larger group of people are forced to carry crosses because of the sins of individuals. Blacks, Latinos, men, women, gays, Christians, gun enthusiasts,  liberals, conservatives, etc., ad nauseum. Until or unless we can come up with a system that accurately distinguishes a subset of people from that entire population, all we’re left with is human subjectivity…which can be extremely unreliable. 

Of course, profiling one specific group can be easily adverted if we all go through the same processes. Like it or not, this full-body scanning could be the solution we’ve all been looking for.

So, what’s up people? Do you agree or disagree with using full-body scanning? Have any of you been subjected to this kind of search yet? If so, what were your impressions?

Holla at me!

– ACL

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