Norway's Alleged Bomber and the Dangers of Racial Profiling
The bombing and shootings in Norway made me remember an experience I had with racial profiling in 2003, when I worked at an airport kiosk and encountered a Norwegian man taking pictures of workers loading a passenger plane.
I wrote about the incident at my old blog, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, in 2007.
Here's my recollection as written then:
... I worked for a while at Newark International Airport and noticed a tall, well-dressed, blond-haired, blue-eyed man shooting video of baggage handlers putting bags on planes. I stood at my kiosk and observed him for a while and the thought crossed my mind, They keep telling us to report suspicious behavior. I bet nobody's questioning what he's doing because he doesn't look like he's of Arab descent. He's a white guy. So, I went up to him smiling and asked, "What are you doing?"
He told me he was shooting video for a television station in his country. I listened to his accent and said, "Cool. Your accent? Icelandic?" He said he was from Norway and started to look uncomfortable. I said, "Oh, don't worry about me. I work over there. I'm not with security. I'm in sales." We talked a few minutes more and then I left. I went back to my kiosk and started scanning the corridor for security.
When I told two police officers about the man they said, "It's not illegal to shoot video." I said I know but shooting video of how the baggage handlers put luggage on the plane seems like something someone should check out. Then one of the officers said, "I wonder if anyone's checked his press credentials. Show us." I turned around and looked toward my kiosk then spotted the man with his camera quickly hauling his butt down the corridor. The officers took off after him.
I don't know what happened and it was probably nothing. He could have been running for his flight. Nevertheless, a few days later Newark Airport was shut down for a while. Agents busted people involved in a weapons deal. The arrested were not of Arab descent. They were Europeans.
The old post at my old blog was about media revealing the shooter's race in the Virginia Tech massacre. I was discussing the pitfalls of racial profiling when deciding who or who may not be a terrorist or mass murderer. That discussion seems appropriate again given what's happened in Norway and especially if the New York Daily News and other sources have their facts straight and the picture the Daily News lifted from Facebook of shooting and bombing suspect Anders Behring Breivik is indeed his picture and not some professional model's face.
Breivik's face (if that's really him) reminds me of a line from Neil Simon's play God's Favorite spoken by the character Lipton:
Would you like to know what the devil looks like? Robert Redford. I swear on my mother's grave. Gorgeous. The man is gorgeous. Blond hair, a little bend in the nose ...
Breivik is being called Norway's version of Timothy McVeigh and the domestic terrorists behind America's Oklahoma City bombings:
The 32-year-old suspected of massacring at least 80 young people at a summer camp and setting off a bomb in downtown Oslo that killed at least seven is a mystery to investigators: a right-winger with anti-Muslim views but no known links to hardcore extremists. ... "He just came out of nowhere," a police official told The Associated Press.
Angry people come in all shapes, colors, sizes, political shades, social class, and states of attractiveness because evil grows first in the soul.
This piece was syndicated from Whose Shoes Are These Anyway?