Tag Archives: racial profiling

Pretextual Airport Stops


Recently, while traveling from Washington D.C. to sunny Florida, Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) sent me to secondary inspection at the airport. Apparently, my bag had an object that they could not identify.

They asked me to identify the object on the screen and I was baffled. It was deep in my 50 gallon backpack, and I could not remember what I had stuffed at the bottom.

The TSA officer asked me whether I was carrying sea salts. I didn’t know at the time what that meant, so I blurted out that I had been to the beach lately.

She looked at me like I had grown two heads, and asked me whether it could be bath salts. Again, I was confused and told her I had no idea what she meant. And even if I was carrying sea salts or bath salts, what was the problem with carrying salt?

The TSA officer started to unpack my bag, examining each item meticulously. Finally, she got to the bottom of bag and found the offending object:




My partner is a bananagrams lover, and I was carrying a brand new bananagrams pack that I had recently bought for her. The TSA officer did not appear amused, and asked me to break the seal. I told her it was a gift for my wife, which was probably not a good idea to blurt out either, but she insisted that I open the bag. So I opened it, and revealed a bunch of new tiles.

At this point, over 20 minutes had elapsed, and we were about to miss our flight. Taking pity on me, she finally packed my bag and let me scamper off to find my flight.

My partner, who is a white woman, had the job of carrying the bananagrams on the way back from Florida. She somehow got through the checkpoint without any trouble.

Pro tip: Give all your oddly shaped items to your white friends to carry at airport checkpoints. Alternatively, stop looking like a queer South Asian boi.

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Are Credit Card Companies Racial Profiling?

Welcome the era of credit card profiling. Credit card companies once used data mining techniques to monitor credit transactions for theft. Now, though, they’re turning to such tactics to identify “risky” consumers and slap them with high interest rates and credit reductions. Not coincidentally, many of those consumers are black.

A new report released by the Federal Reserve Board indicates that lenders report using the location of purchases, type of purchases made and the identity of a mortgage lender to make negative credit changes to borrower accounts.

These practices almost falls in the ballpark of credit redlining, because racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to shop at “risky” businesses such as casinos, pawn shops, thrift and discount stores. Buying used parts is seen as a risk signal, as is having a mortgage lender in a zipcode that’s home to lots of foreclosures. And as predatory financial institutions would have it, because many foreclosures are also in communities of color, living in a minority neighborhood can also literally be bad for your credit.

In minority neighborhoods — once flooded with predatory lending practices and unaffordably high interest rates — another study shows that of late, lending has declined at a disproportionately swift rate. For example, in minority communities, the availability of refinance loans has dropped 68% in recent years, compared to a 23% drop in neighborhoods that are predominantly white. And because most racial and ethnic minorities can’t salvage their homes by getting credit to move to “better neighborhoods,” credit companies continue to mark them as “at risk” consumers.

Of course, there are limits to data-mining. Credit card companies, for example, can’t collect racial or ethnic information from borrowers. But it turns out that just having their zipcode is enough. Using U.S. Census tract data, a 2008 Boston Fed study by economist Ethan Cohen found that credit card applicants living in black neighborhoods were less likely to get credit cards than applicants living in white areas — even if they had the same credit history.

The credit system presents consumers with a catch-22. In order to escape profiling, a person can’t use cash at all times, because doing so won’t build the credit needed for big-ticket items such as cars and home mortgages loans. Left with no alternative, everyone has to get into debt in order get a credit rating. And now it turns out that everyone has to be subjected to credit card companies’ racial profiling in the process, too.

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My Name is Khan And Hence I was Detained

Imagine detaining Tom Cruise in Mumbai because his common name is on a list of common names allegedly associated with ‘terrorism.’


Shahrukh Khan is living a Kafkaesque nightmare — detained in New Jersey for his last name while he is in the United States shooting “My Name is Khan.”

And ironically, he was detained because his name ‘Khan’ (a common Muslim last name) is on some ‘no-fly’ list. Talking about giving credence to his new movie.

The Times of India reports:

The actor, who is visiting the US to attend a South Asian event where he was the guest of honor was released after Congress MP Rajiv Shukla spoke to the authorities in the US and the Indian consulate. The actor was detained after his name flashed on the computer. He was asked several questions about the purpose of his visit. His hand baggage was checked. He was not allowed to even make a phone call for nearly an hour.

I know about ridiculous things that happen due to airport security paranoia. I know that even former Indian President, Abdul Kalam, was frisked last month by an American airline in New Delhi.  Shahrukh seemed offended and perturbed, rightly so.

“I told them I was a movie star and had recently visited the country for the shooting of my film. Nothing seemed to convince the immigration officer. There were other immigration officers who even vouched for me but this particular officer did not listen to anyone. I even told them I had an invitation from the South Asian community and was there to attend an event.’’

What’s interesting is that Dave from Change.org was just telling me earlier today that Newark is not a safe space to travel for undocumented immigrants. Apparently, immigration officers don’t just discriminate based on documentation but race is also a proxy for criminality.

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Filed under Desi, Immigration, Racism

U.S. Government Wrongfully Detaining Citizens and Tourists

I came across an outrageous article today that reminded me of a caller I spoke to when I staffed the National Lawyers’ Guild 9-11 Hotline. He was a dual-citizen of Bulgaria and the United States who was apprehended by Homeland Security at the San Francisco Intl. Airport for practically no reason (His name was probably on the DHS ‘watch list’ again for no particular reason). Homeland Security sent him paperwork to fill-out a few weeks later where he had to answer nonsensical questions such as “What is the purpose of your dual citizenship?” and “What country are you more loyal towards, Bulgaria or the United States?” Needless to say, the guy was frustrated, confused and enraged at this treatment–He is a U.S. citizen!

The case below is not of a U.S. citizen but involves a German of Syrian descent whose wife and children are U.S. citizens nonetheless. He was mistreated and detained by U.S. Immigration officers. Who knows how many stories from other citizens, immigrants and tourists never made it to press.

(Does anyone scoffing need to be reminded of the Italian tourist that was wrongfully detained because Immigration officers had no interpreters that could translate Italian)?

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race is a proxy for 'illegal' presence

How ridiculous is it that the ICE is deporting US citizens in error?! How do you possibly goof-up like that?

Read the article here

I m just going to be blunt. I don’t see any white people mistakenly identified as “illegal” and deported to Europe! The victims of these egregious errors by the ICE are mostly of Latin-American and Caribbean descent, and some suffering from mental health problems!

Shame on ICE. Shame on you. But I understand. If it weren’t for ‘illegals’ or people who may appear ‘illegal,’ the ICE wouldn’t exist and a lot of uselessly employed people would go unemployed…And they say illegals take away jobs from Americans…

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