I do a tremendous amount of flying, not quite George Clooney “Up in the Air” amount of flying but between campaign events, speaking, and research I’m on a plane just about every other month during campaign years.
In all of my years of flying, both nationally and internationally I have only been given a secondary screening twice. Once, because I was carrying a DVR box with me and the TSA screeners wanted to know what it was, and a second time because I was wearing a UNC T-shirt and the screener laughed at me and said he graduated from Duke (true story).
I can’t imagine how much of a pain it must be, not to mention the missed connections, to receive additional screening almost 100% of the time, but that’s the experience of many Sikh Americans over the last decade until now. Because, there’s an app for that.
On Monday the Sikh Coalition, in coordination with several other Civil Rights groups released a new phone app called the FlyRights app which allows members of the Sikh to immediately report instances where they feel discriminated against through their i-phones. It goes without saying that Southeast Asians, Arabs, and men and women in middle eastern garb receive extra scrutiny at airports often because of their dress regardless of if there is any legitimate reason or concern.
What’s worse is that for fear of being profiled further, many of these incidents go unreported because of fear of reprisal. The Sikh Coalition reports that only 11 formal complaints were filed to the TSA in the first part of 2011, when anecdotally it is believed there are many more instances.
Although the TSA has official policies against racial discrimination and profiling travellers that has not stopped agents from targeting groups in the past. The Honolulu airport was charged by several Civil Rights groups for coddling a group of TSA agents knicknamed “The Mexicutioners” because of their penchant for selecting Mexican and South American for additional screening.
The TSA investigation found no evidence but the NAACP, La Raza and several other groups disagree. The hope is that this app will make more Americans aware of their rights and keep the TSA on their toes about officers.
To be honest, the idea of an app to report racial discrimination is a good idea in general. The NAACP needs to get on this, I would love a racial profiling app for complaints about being pulled over, denied bank loans and overlooked for promotions. I know that’s a tall order, but I’m sure it would be pretty popular.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.