This past month, my brother, Joe, was in an airport waiting to catch a plane to spend a week with my family back home. He stopped and asked an airport attendant if he could repack a set of wine glasses into his carry-on so they’d be more secure, and was told it was fine. However, before my brother even arrived at the security checkpoint, he was stopped by two security officers. They searched through his carry-on, found the box containing the wine glasses, examined them, and told Joe that he had to throw them out. The airport attendant had tagged my brother as a security threat. Susie, my older sister, also had a similar experience at an airport when a security officer asked her to step aside at the security checkpoint so he could perform a search through her bag. Although these occurrences seem strange, they’re actually quite commonplace to my family. Since my father is from India and my mother is white, my siblings and I have tan skin, brown eyes, and very dark hair. We understand that strict federal regulations have been implemented after the events of 9/11. We know that airport security has to take every precaution when checking luggage to identify possible safety hazards. However, my siblings and I have yet to understand why even outside of airport security checkpoints, people continue to make radical assumptions about us based on our heritage and physical appearance. I was reminded of my family’s struggles against racial profiling as I watched news reports on the validity of President Obama’s citizenship this summer. The man had led a campaign and won the presidency some time ago-why was this under scrutiny now of all times? I wondered. I then remembered that Obama was the target of harsh criticism by his opponents over the government’s “bailouts” and his plans to reform the healthcare system. I remembered seeing numerous scare tactics being used in television commercials and billboards, warning the elderly and working families that their Medicare and health insurance were going to be cut. I even recently saw a bumper sticker featuring the word “socialism,” with Obama’s campaign logo replacing the letter “o.” I understood that recent challenges to Obama’s U.S. citizenship were just another method of trying to reduce the president’s credibility. Although Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and had the legal documentation to verify his U.S. citizenship, it wasn’t necessarily his international upbringing that started the citizenship arguments. It was because Obama was bringing numerous changes to the White House that perhaps the American public wasn’t able to readily accept. For example, Obama’s election as the nation’s first African-American president disrupted the election patterns of nearly two-hundred and twenty years. The president was also trying to implement strategies to assess the nation’s various struggles that varied greatly from the previous administration’s policies. Overall, the “change” that Obama had promised in his campaign may be too much for some Americans.
Although the argument over the president’s citizenship and my siblings’ airport security experiences don’t have much in common, the mentalities of Obama’s more radical opponents and some airport security officers are quite similar. The security officers pulled my brother and sister aside because they looked like “terrorists,” searched their bags, and found nothing potentially dangerous in their belongings. Hopefully, as time passes, more people will see beyond Obama’s personal and political differences and realize that progress comes with time and cooperation.
Jennifer James is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at JJ655874@wcupa.edu