Please read this post by a half-Jewish, half-Arab American woman, who — along with her two Indian co-passengers — was arrested by a small battalion of armed cops (of course, all cops in the US are armed — very threatening for someone not used to it) on the 11th of September. Apparently, a co-passenger commemorated 9/11 with the ‘See Something, Say Something’ directive, because everyone knows three brown people sitting in a row equals murder and mayhem. After all, look at Afghanistan and the Middle-East. Full of brown people, and not a moment’s peace.
This is how the arrest blossomed:
Before I knew it, about 10 cops, some in what looked like military fatigues, were running toward the plane carrying the biggest machine guns I have ever seen… Someone shouted for us to place our hands on the seats in front of us, heads down. The cops ran down the aisle, stopped at my row and yelled at the three of us to get up. [One of the cops] slapped metal cuffs on my wrists and pushed me off the plane. The three of us, two Indian men living in the Detroit metro area, and me, a half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife living in suburban Ohio, were being detained.
And then the three people were tossed into prison while stiff handcuffed, because when a pat-down — and later a strip-search — does not reveal explosives or weapons, you just know you’ve landed the real deal.
Probably the most telling sentence in the entire, terrifying post is uttered by a polite and friendly female officer, when she strip-searches Shoshana.
“You understand why we have to do this, right? It’s for our own protection,” she told me.
If one remembers that Shoshana is an American, one might wonder precisely how being hauled off a plane sans explanation, felt up and down, cuffed, and chucked into a cell with an officer watching her every move — and a video camera over the unwashed toilet bowl — might have been designed to ‘protect’ her.
It becomes clearer, however, when one realises that this harassed woman isn’t part of the ‘we’ the policewoman has in mind. Brown is not part of the all-American skin-tone spectrum. Funny, when you think of its First People. But no matter how much you pay in taxes, how young your parents were when your grandparents immigrated, or how completely ‘American’ you feel down to your bones, a large section of the native populace will never consider your American enough. Identity, as people often forget, is a two-way street. You may think you belong to This and no Other, but This thinks you’re nothing but the Other.
And you’re going to have to pay for that difference.