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Profiled By The TSA? There's An App For That.
May 2, 2012 2:36 PM   Subscribe

FlyRights is a smartphone app designed to provide a quick and easy way to report complaints of air travel harassment, profiling, and discrimination. Within the first ten hours of its launch, FlyRights had fielded two complaints of harassment and profiling. By contrast, the DHS's report to Congress on civil rights and civil liberties listed only 11 complaints in the first six months of 2011. FlyRights was designed by the Sikh Coalition, the nation's largest Sikh civil rights organization.
posted by mattdidthat (38 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome, look forward to more app fueled advocacy. I'd be Sikh and tired of harassment too if I wore a turban through the airport.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:47 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have friends in the trans communities who are promoting this app as well as a way to try to keep the TSA's policies in check or at least consistently applied.

I just downloaded it for my Android phone.
posted by kalessin at 2:50 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which helps to guarantee human rights (only) to owners of smartphones and tablets. But then, most people without them can't afford to fly either.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:57 PM on May 2, 2012


What happens if the TSA profiles me for installing this app on my phone? Is there an app for that?
posted by lubujackson at 2:57 PM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


FlyRights is a smartphone app designed to provide a quick and easy way to report complaints of air travel harassment, profiling, and discrimination

Don't we have twitter and Kevin Smith for this!?
posted by Fizz at 2:59 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this is a good thing.
posted by Fizz at 3:00 PM on May 2, 2012


They probably heard about how dangerous Sikhs can be when massively outnumbered.

Seriously though, this is a great idea, and seeing the 2 complaints in ten hours stat compared with the DHS report of 11 in 6 months shows that it is needed.
posted by marienbad at 3:07 PM on May 2, 2012


Do not fuck with the Sikhs.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:16 PM on May 2, 2012


We're scannin the peeps in the airport tonight
looking for you to get on a flight
there's an evil feeling in our brains
but it's nothing new it's the TSAAAAAAAA

SIKH ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNND
SIKH AND DESTROY
posted by spicynuts at 3:23 PM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I wonder if John Pistole will issue a new memo about this.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:23 PM on May 2, 2012


I used to get harassed by airport security all the time, as a 20-something with long hair and a beard. That's one thing that has changed for me for the better about airline travel since the TSA came into being -- they're profiling for an entirely different demographic now.

I read about this app last night, and think it's a good idea. I'm surprised the TSA, with all their confident testimony about how professional they are and how few complaints they have, didn't come out with their own version by now. But that would probably be a public relations disaster for them.
posted by hippybear at 3:48 PM on May 2, 2012


I think it's important to emphasize that this app was put out by a Sikh civil rights group. Sikhs are not Muslims, but they're subjected to enough discrimination that they felt it necessary to take action. When we do racial profiling, we can't even do it "correctly."

About a year ago there was an excellent story about a Sikh man who was shot in cold blood after a man mistook him for a Muslim in the wake of 9/11. The Sikh victim had spent months trying to persuade the state of Texas not to execute his shooter. To the best of my knowledge, Sikhism is about as peace-loving as religion gets.

My aunt, who is descended from Lebanese Christians, and is herself Christian, was detained and aggressively by the FBI after accidentally bringing a paring knife through airport security.

Racial profiling in America doesn't mean that we selectively target radicalized young Muslims. It means we waste our time discriminating against dark-skinned, religious-looking people. Meanwhile, any terrorist that poses an actual threat will avoid ordering halal meals on flights, comporting themselves as clean-shaven, business traveling Westerners.
posted by compartment at 3:53 PM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


About a year ago there was an excellent story about a Sikh man who was shot in cold blood after a man mistook him for a Muslim in the wake of 9/11.

The victim in that story was lucky, as in he survived. Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed outside of the gas station/convenience store he owned in Mesa, AZ on Sept 15, 2001. And he's not the only one who was profiled by the general public for murder or other hate crimes based on their appearance as "other" after 9/11.

But yeah, the Sikhs in general have it worse than most, because of their turbans and beards. It's a shame that general US consciousness isn't well-educated enough to know the difference between foreign head-dress, or to know that Sikhs aren't Mulsims, or any number of other things that seem to all get muddled to "they're just damn foreigners, not like us" in the minds of the general public.
posted by hippybear at 4:08 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


*slow clap*
posted by hypersloth at 4:43 PM on May 2, 2012


It means we waste our time discriminating against dark-skinned, religious-looking people.

Amy Alkon's a pale redhead. The little girl in the leg braces wasn't wearing a beard or a turban. TSA's random gropes aren't racial profiling--it's security theater of an especially amateur production.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:50 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


TSA's random gropes aren't racial profiling--it's security theater of an especially amateur production.

I would argue that its more accurate to say that the TSA's idiotic practices are not restricted to racial profiling.

They do a whole bunch of other stupid things too, as you have noted, like strip searching toddlers.

But racial profiling is a large part of it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:04 PM on May 2, 2012


About a year ago there was an excellent story about a Sikh man who was shot in cold blood after a man mistook him for a Muslim in the wake of 9/11. The Sikh victim had spent months trying to persuade the state of Texas not to execute his shooter. To the best of my knowledge, Sikhism is about as peace-loving as religion gets

The linked article clearly describes the victim, Mr Bhuiyan, as a Muslim. The picture of him without turban and beard is also a bit of a giveaway.
posted by howfar at 5:05 PM on May 2, 2012


Howfar's right - he's not a Sikh, although he doesn't mention his religion in his many interviews and press releases. I suppose he thinks it's not relevant. After all, he was attacked because of perception, not reality.

However, there are plenty of other examples of mistaken hate crimes against Sikhs, especially just after 2001.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:18 PM on May 2, 2012


most of sikhs i know don't wear beards or turbans.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:21 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Howfar, thanks for the correction. I didn't re-read the article; I just grabbed the link.

I think I'm confusing the Texas shooting with the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi that hippybear mentions. In that case, his family asked for the killer's death sentence to to be reduced to life in prison.

The linked article opens with a Sikh's description of a 3-year-old pointing at him in a waiting room and saying, "Mommy, there's the bad guy." I view racial profiling as the grown-up version of that child's reaction.

Other links relevant to this thread:

A 9/11 tenth anniversary story about Balbir's brother
A story from another Sikh who was not related to Balbir but shared his surname. After his killing she received phone calls from people expressing their condolences.
• Underscoring the travel difficulties that Sikhs face, here is a story about a Sikh who was stabbed in an airport.

posted by compartment at 7:21 PM on May 2, 2012


most of sikhs i know don't wear beards or turbans.

So they don't perform a compulsory religious observance? I suppose it's like all those "Christians" who appear on censuses but never in church.

More broadly on the topic of violence against perceived enemies, I worry sometimes that a certain odd attitude can creep in, where Sikh and other non-Muslim South Asian and Middle Eastern victims of hate crimes are regarded as somehow more innocent than Muslim victims. I'm not suggesting anyone here believes that, but I think it is one of those narratives that tends to emerge in such polarised situations, and can potentially distracted from, rather than emphasise, the madness we're embroiled in.
posted by howfar at 7:37 PM on May 2, 2012


So they don't perform a compulsory religious observance? I suppose it's like all those "Christians" who appear on censuses but never in church.

I would liken it to all the Christians that use contraception in defiance of the Vatican. Or perhaps the swathe of Jewish men that don't wear a yarmulke on a daily basis, but observe other aspects of Judaism.

As in every religion, the level of orthodoxy and compliance varies.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:52 PM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


So they don't perform a compulsory religious observance? I suppose it's like all those "Christians" who appear on censuses but never in church.

Hah! You're going to love Jews.
posted by ~ at 7:52 PM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hah! You're going to love Jews.

The comparison between Sikhism and Judaism is a very poor one. The confusion between ethnic, cultural religious identity is exactly the problem we were discussing. Gags apparently conflating or confusing them are probably not helpful.
posted by howfar at 8:02 PM on May 2, 2012


As in every religion, the level of orthodoxy and compliance varies.

You are, of course, entirely correct. The issue about the singling out of Sikhs is to do with visible religious observance, though, which was the point I was initially trying to indicate.
posted by howfar at 8:06 PM on May 2, 2012


A story from another Sikh who was not related to Balbir but shared his surname.

I think you'll find that every male Sikh has Singh as part of his name.
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The issue about the singling out of Sikhs is to do with visible religious observance, though, which was the point I was initially trying to indicate.

Ah, I see. IMO, while visible religious observance is a factor, I think that there's an argument that visible cultural or ethic markers also contribute.

We're talking about the most ignorant and stupid of racists, here. In many instances, brown enough is good enough, turban or no turban.

For example, from my previous link (all these occurred in late 2001):
Los Angeles, CA: A young Persian woman is eating lunch with a friend who jokingly calls her an Arab. A young woman sitting next to them follows them out of the restaurant, asks the woman if she is Arab, and punches her in the eye.

San Francisco, CA: Sean Fernandes, a 26-year-old Indian Catholic is attacked while walking with a white Australian friend in the early morning. An unidentified man approaches the pair, calls Fernandes a “dirty Arab,” and punches him and the friend. The attacker also allegedly directs an ethnic slur at Clarke and told him, “Your friend is Arab, and we kill Arabs.” Fernandes’ friend is stabbed in the ensuing brawl and remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Tulsa, OK: Kimberly Lowe, a 21-year-old full-blood Creek Native American, is killed when she and several Native friends are followed and harassed by a vehicle of white males. The males throws items at the car and yells “Go back to your own country!” Lowe, the driver, stops the car and gets out to confront the males, at which point the attackers drive and pin her against another vehicle, then back up and run over her again.

Lancaster, CA: Two men in a white truck follow a Latino man — apparently mistaken as of Middle Eastern descent — to his home and beat him in his house. Mark Martin, 20, and Timothy Martin, 35, have been indicted on suspicion of assault and burglary against Gerald Pimental, 47.
No turbans involved.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:42 PM on May 2, 2012


I worry sometimes that a certain odd attitude can creep in, where Sikh and other non-Muslim South Asian and Middle Eastern victims of hate crimes are regarded as somehow more innocent than Muslim victims.

This is an interesting phenomenon. I don't think that non-Muslim victims are perceived to be 'more innocent', so much as the mistaken identity adds and extra level of WTF.

Here's how I parse it:

The racist idiots (RIs) want to attack Muslims, because to them Muslims = the enemy. Leaving aside the fact that this view is beyond stupid, the RIs can attack (1) actual Muslims, or (2) whomever they (incorrectly) perceive to be Muslims.

In (1), innocents get brutalised, but the RIs at least achieve their goal, moronic and vicious though it is.

But in (2), not only are innocents being brutalised, but the RI don't even do what they intended - they fail to achieve their goal. (2) is the worst possible scenario for everyone involved - it's even more senseless than (1).
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:55 PM on May 2, 2012


I would liken it to all the Christians that use contraception in defiance of the Vatican.

You probably mean Catholics. I believe the majority of Christians these days don't recognize papal authority (at least in the West).
posted by srboisvert at 2:15 AM on May 3, 2012


His thoughts, this is a good time to pull out your dog-eared copy of The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. You nailed it though.
posted by sneebler at 5:14 AM on May 3, 2012


Which helps to guarantee human rights (only) to owners of smartphones and tablets. But then, most people without them can't afford to fly either.

It's not clear from the site but I'd bet the app isn't restricted to self reporting.
posted by Mitheral at 8:42 AM on May 3, 2012


You probably mean Catholics.

I do indeed. Remember people: proofread your rage fueled screeds!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:35 PM on May 3, 2012


His thoughts, this is a good time to pull out your dog-eared copy of The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. You nailed it though.

Sneeber
, I'd never heard of that piece before today. It's pretty awesome - thanks!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:36 PM on May 3, 2012


But in (2), not only are innocents being brutalised, but the RI don't even do what they intended - they fail to achieve their goal. (2) is the worst possible scenario for everyone involved - it's even more senseless than (1).

That just seems silly to me. You already pointed out that "brown enough is good enough" for racists like this. I don't think there is any real difference to draw, is there?
posted by howfar at 5:11 PM on May 3, 2012


Yes, of course it's silly. But I'm not the one drawing the distinction.

That comment is merely my speculation on the thought process of the people who think a 'mistaken race/ethnicity/religion' hate crime is worse than a an 'ordinary' hate crime.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:18 PM on May 3, 2012


actually they are pretty religious ... and don't hesitate to tell me about it. it can be almost as bad as being with an evengelical christian.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:44 AM on May 4, 2012


TSA saves America from 16yo diabetic, breaks $10K insulin pump which totally could have been a bomb
posted by homunculus at 9:27 AM on May 9, 2012


How exactly is the screening machine supposed to damage the pump? Is there any evidence that the pump was actually broken?
posted by grouse at 8:01 PM on May 13, 2012


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