In a post 9/11 world, I’ve gotten used to the security scramble I have to go through, especially as a brown-skinned expat who was raised in a Middle-Eastern country and having a Muslim-sounding name.
I moved to Canada and met my wonderful, Caucasian spouse. He knows the privilege he has and has always empathized with me. But I’m not sure he understood how awful racial profiling and screening can go until we traveled together out of the country shortly after our marriage.
At my local international airport in Toronto, the customs officials were conducting ‘random’ screenings before the security checkpoint. A security agent was asking ‘random’ people to stick their hand out to run a wand over it. The custom official had no way of knowing whether I or my husband were Canadian citizens, as she was not checking or looking at our documents before conducting the ‘random’ screenings.
I was ‘randomly’ selected. I asked what it was for and was gruffly told (in a tone that implied that if I asked anymore questions that I would be detained) that it was to check for chemicals.
It was very clear that my husband was my travel companion, so my husband also stuck his hand out too. The security agent just smiled sweetly to my husband and said “No need.” and let him go through.
It was the first time I really felt angry instead of resigned. I felt angry because it was a stark contrast to what I’d begun to normalise and I couldn’t – for the lack of a better word – unsee it. It was made very clear to me that what had become normal for me was in fact, very abnormal.
I was initially mad at my husband because I envied him living in his rather blissful life of never being discriminated against and winning the life lottery of being born the right skin colour and gender. Then I realised he didn’t ask for it and I got mad at the customs officer instead – and then I got mad at the a-holes who started this all by creating 9/11 and the a-holes who have continued after that.
And then my anger went back to the customs officer and whoever thought it was OK to discriminate people by racially profiling them – because if there’s anyone who wants to see the terrorists pay, it’s me. Their actions changed my life, hijacked my culture and faith, and have forever in the near future made me feel like I’m someone untrustworthy even though I did nothing to deserve it except have the same skin colour.
But I just smiled and moved on because I had no intention of doing anything that would delay me boarding my flight and I hated the fact that they have that power over me, whereas as my husband is lucky that he never had to feel all these emotions I feel.
Why is that when some assholes do things in this world, I’m made responsible for their actions? Why must I apologize for them because of the colour of my skin, or where I come from? Why is it that when I condemn them, it’s never heard or not enough?
This week’s comic was illustrated by Chrissy H.