Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2001 /18 Tishrei, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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Consumer Reports

Drawing the line
on racial profiling -- HUGH PRICE, president of the National Urban League, recently expressed distress that both Gallup and Zogby International polls have shown that black Americans support certain security measures in greater numbers than other ethnic groups.

It shocks Price that black Americans believe that those of Arabic descent should undergo more intensive security and be required to carry special identification. He sees this as a dangerous acceptance of "bias, masquerading as expertise."

I think Price is interpreting this wrongly, as do many who want to bring together racial profiling of black Americans and this sudden suspicion of people with Middle Eastern looks.

In the case of black Americans, people are stopped, searched and sometimes detained because there is the assumption that a crime might be in progress - carrying illegal firearms, transporting drugs, moving stolen goods.

However irritating and incorrect, this racial profiling of black Americans can be handled differently because we are not talking about a direct threat to the general populace. The Arabs-in-America question removes us from the area of speculation and abstract theories about individual freedom. We have had war declared on us by a spider at the center of a web of terrorist cells. Followers of that spider are hiding in the Arab-American community.

No one doubts this. No one. In fact, it should bother all of us that a moratorium was not declared on immigration from the Middle East after the 1993 attack on the twin towers, especially since most of those identified with Sept. 11 arrived here after that time.

Historically, immigration has had bad effects on black Americans, who have come to find that affirmative action has been stretched to include nonwhites who have neither a long nor a significant history in the making of this nation. That history, beginning in chattel slavery, was at the center of affirmative action's conception, which was to address the accrued grievances.

If one examines the history of Islam in relationship to black Africa - including the present-day enslavement and sale of black people - there is no automatic reason black Americans should assume any bond with that religion, even if the bond is based on common opposition to certain European or American actions.

Does this mean that black Americans should hate Muslims or those with Middle Eastern looks? Of course not. But we have to face the fact that we are on the verge of discussing tactical, wartime measures necessary to protect Americans.

If more Americans are murdered by people who are part of the terrorist web from the Middle East and successfully hiding out in a certain community, the response is going to have less to do with any kind of bigotry than with the icy nature of war.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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