Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Imagine Being on Board Northwest Airlines Flight 253

This piece written by Steven Gray from Time Magazine really annoys the hell out of me.

He is writing about the passengers who were on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit two days after the same flight was nearly blown up in mid-air by al Qaeda recruit Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab.

Towards the end of the flight, a Nigerian man had to go to the bathroom, spent more than an hour in the lavatory and refused to come out. As it turns out this man wasn't a terrorist but rather had a very bad case of food poisoning.

Yet Gray has the audacity to ask if the passengers of both overreacting and engaging in racial profiling. Gray writes, "But is racial or ethnic profiling ever justified - and, if so, when, and why?"

Steven Gray should take a moment and put himself on that flight. I suspect most of the passengers had no way of knowing if this man was Nigerian. But the fact he would behave in this manner scarcely 48 hours after someone attempted to blow up the same flight would have raised alarm bells amongst passengers regardless of his race and national origin.

If someone tries to blow up a plane and then someone engages in unusual behavior on the very same plane 48 hours later is it unreasonable to consider that the individual in question might be up to no good? You are 30,000 feet in the air and have nowhere to go. What else could have done under the circumstances?

Since it was a case of food poisoning one must wonder why a) this passenger didn't simply say he was ill and b) didn't accept medical attention (assuming there was a doctor or nurse on board who could have treated him until the plane landed)? I could imagine that if there was a language barrier that would have added to the general chaos but I don't know if that was germane to this situation. I wasn't there.

Neither was Steven Gray. The last thing the passengers of Sunday's Northwest Airlines Flight 253 need is for some grandstanding reporter to wag his finger at them and raise the spectre of racial profiling.

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