“The citizens and terrorist” by Leti Volpp
In her article “The citizens and terrorist”, the author, Professor Leti Volpp, outlines the new terrorist stereotype, which has appeared after the catastrophe of the September 11, 2001. The Professor explains that since the Twin Towers attack, several thousands of Muslim, Middle Easters or South Americans have been arrested only because of their appearance. Leti Volpp in her article bases the definition of new forms of racial profiling on the articles written in New York Times and Washington Times. In the articles, the General Attorney John Ashcroft and the former President of the United States of America George W. Bush asked the police officers stop and search Asian, Muslim and South Americans, only because of their race or ethnicity (Volpp, 2002).
As seen from the text above, the searches and seizures, conducted by police officers in 2001 and 2002, after the tragedy of the September 11, were against the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The main argument is that during the post-catastrophe time, the police officers have arrested or interviewed several thousand of innocent people. Moreover, most of them have been interviewed on minor law violations. The author mentions a case of one student in Ohio. The police has criminally charged him (Volpp, 565). Yet, the main problem of the student was that he worked twenty-seven hours instead of twenty, as allowed by visa.
Hence, it is obvious that such shifts in new forms of racial profiling against the Fourth Amendment. The author of the article points out that the only reason to search and interview all these people was that they all were Muslim, Asian or South Americans. In the article, it is also mentioned that mass media played a significant role in such attitude and the establishment of new forms of racial profiling.
In the article, the author mentions that racial hate is the new main form of racial profiling against ordinary people. After the events of the September 11, 2001, there have been many reports on violence against Muslim, Asian or South Americans. Most of them have been beaten, whereas others have been attacked with “guns, knives, and words” (Volpp, 566). Another form of racial profiling existed in airports. There have been reported numerous cases, when Muslim, Asian or South Americans have been asked to leave a plane because other passengers were afraid to take a flight with those people on board.
I have already mentioned that Leti Volpp suggested that mass media was the means of transferring such stereotypes. Even nowadays, there are TV shows, where Muslim way of life is contrasted with the American way of life.
Leti Volpp claims that – “despotism, terror, primitivism and fundamentalism, each of which are coded as Middle Eastern, Arab, and Muslim. Through these actions and these statements, the American public is being instructed that looking “Middle Eastern, Arab, or Muslim” equals “potential terrorist.”” (Volpp, 568)
Another problem of such new forms of racial profiling is that 2001 and 2002 are the times of the war against terrorism not only in the United States of America, but also all over the world. The Americans were taught to suspect Muslim, Arab, or Middle Eastern representatives in terrorism.
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Leti Volpp outlines that state racial profiling and the process of its operation is ridiculous. The author of the article emphasizes that there have been two tragic terrorist attacks in the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty first century. Yet, the Professor outlines that the consequences and how the citizens of the country perceived the situations differently. In the Timothy McVeigh’s case, the citizens of the United States of America began to understand themselves as a whole, multinational state. The author mentions in the article that a lot of ‘Americans’ T-shirts has appeared. People were proud to be Americans, regardless the fact that more than one hundred people have died when McVeigh attacked the Oklahoma City. On the contrary, when the Twin Towers have been attacked, the citizens of the country turned away from Muslim, Arab and South Americans.
Leti Volpp outlines that Timothy McVeigh, as well as the terrorists, who attacked the Twin Towers, were the actors of the new forms of racial profiling. Yet, there is one difference between those two. The problem is that when speaking about Timothy McVeigh, people do not think of all the white Americans, especially veterans, as of bad persons. Instead, the American citizens realize that he was the one, who had chosen the wrong path. On the contrary, when speaking of the Twin Towers terroristic act, people always remember a Muslim or Arab, who could have participated in Al Qaeda, or any other terroristic organization. Here, one question remains unanswered, what the difference between those two terrorists was. I suggest that the reputation of Timothy McVeigh, Al Qaeda and the definition of the state racial profiling can explain everything.
When reading the case of Timothy McVeigh, it becomes clear that this person wanted to revenge. Besides, he was white American and veteran. I suppose that it was not in the interests of American government to make this person national anti-hero. Instead, a person, who attacked the Twin Towers, was the representative of the Muslim world. I have already mentioned that mass media had played a significant role in the stereotype formation, broadcasting shows, which based on the contradiction of the American and the Muslim worlds. In the article, the author mentioned the triangle of sovereignty, discipline, and government, when she explained the mechanism of racial profiling. The idea of the triangle, indeed, helps explain the state racial profiling. I suggest that the government through the sovereignty and discipline was involved in the process of racial profiling appearance within the citizens. Moreover, Leti Volpp argues that state racial profiling has always existed:
“In simultaneously advocating policies of colorblindness for citizenry while engaging in racial profiling for non citizens, and publicly embracing all religions while particularly privileging Christianity, the administration has, in the name of democratic inclusion, disingenuously excluded” (Volpp, 569)
In respond to Volpp’s account of the shift in racial profiling, I have chosen the theory of Emile Durkheim. Social factors are particularly important and they influence the way a person acts. The point is not that a person has some internal or external reasons to commit a crime; sometimes, a person is driven by social factors. However, I suppose that it is normal that a social fact is present in an ordinary society (Durkheim, p. 65). The theory is based mostly on how society influences criminals and not vice versa. Durkheim supposed that all world’s societies are of two types, according to how the labor is divided there: Mechanical societies and Organic societies. Mechanical societies are primitive; they are isolated from the neighbor social groups and are relatively self-sufficient. They have almost identical life conditions and they do the same job, all they have one occupation. However, organic societies are more complex; people who live in such social groups are more differently employed, they have more opportunities to find job. For a mechanic society crime in normal; besides, Durkheim argued that there were no societies in the world, where individuals did not differ greatly from the collective type (Durkheim, p.70). For example, when there is a perfect society, where no crimes are committed, this is the mechanical type of social group. If a person in an organic society, which is an ordinary society, the one we live in, commits a cruel crime, there will be a scandal; the same situation will be if somebody from a mechanical society, from a society of saints, does something wrong, which in organic society will not be even noticed. If we define what crime is and such criminal behaviors exist no longer in a society, the new criminal behaviors will appear and replace the old ones. However, in organic societies such quick changes, which appear because of the increasing the division of labor, may lead to the people confusion toward social norms and a person may feel lost in this particular society. All social norms break down and it lead to the appearing of the Anomie. (Durkheim, p.70) Anomie is a state of society in which the decomposition, disintegration and decay of a certain well-established system of values and norms that support the traditional social order, now is their inconsistency new formulated and adopted by the State ideals. The necessary condition of anomie in society – the discrepancy between the needs and interests of its members on the one hand and the capacity to meet – on the other.
I suggest that this theory can help understand the racial profiling better. The point is that the society influences how the criminals will conduct. As seen from the answers above, the society has a great impact on the attitude towards all the Muslim, Asian and South Americans. Hence, such behavior provoked these people to commit crimes. The Emile Durkheim’s theory is the best to explain such process as racial profiling after the September 11, 2001 terroristic attack. Emile Durkheim has found the connection between the society and the criminals, which helped me understand the post September 11 events better.