Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Week in Racial Profiling (or: Being an Iranian or Iraqi in the USA today)

Kambiz Fattahi is a BBC reporter and grad student at Georgetown University. I met him once in passing at an Iran-related event. He seemed nice and friendly, and unlike many reporters, he was not at all pushy.

Apparently, some racist attendees at a Georgetown University event and two fat--or as Kambiz calls them, "portly"--security guards did not share my impressions. While sitting at the graduation ceremony for a friend and listening, ironically enough, to a self-congratulatory speech about the "tradition of freedom" in the United States, Kambiz was pulled away by security guards who told him that he was "making some people here nervous."

The guards then inquired about his national origin:

I told him I was a US citizen. After showing forms of identification, including my card from the BBC Persian Service, he commented: "So, you're from Persia. Aren't Babylon and the Tigris River in Persia?"

I hope that Kambiz told them "no, you fool, Bablyon and the Tigris are in Iraq, you know, the country you've been occupying for the last four years." But I doubt he made fun of their glaring stupidity. Like I said, he seems like a nice guy.

Leigh Robbins of Richmond Virginia probably has a thing or two in common with these security guards and the individuals who prompted them to harass Kambiz. About to take off on a flight from San Diego to Chicago on September 1, she was so freaked out by seven Iraqi men that she demanded that American Airlines let her and her kids get off of the plane:

Robbins said she was sitting in the back of the plane with her children, awaiting the departure from the gate, when one of the Iraqis walked by to use the restroom.

She heard him “clunking around” inside the bathroom. When he came out, he had a suspicious look on his face, she said.

“He looked so mean, the way he was looking at everyone,” Robbins said. “It was very frightening, like something out of a movie.”

The best part of the story is that the seven Iraqis were defense contractors (read: mercenaries) working with the U.S. marines. The press has covered the men's occupation as though it is proof that they were "good" guys. To the more perceptive reader, this part of the story constitutes a bit of poetic justice.