This week, Nashville, Tennessee, “The Athens of the South,” nearly transformed into an ordinary day on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. After the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) detained Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at the Nashville International Airport when he refused to partake in an invasive pat down, the Senator and his supporters had every right to cry foul. However, Monday’s narrative is all too similar to the oft-downplayed reality that many innocent black males face when confronted by the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk. It would be quite a powerful statement if Sen. Paul uses his situation to link the two and confront the misguided supporters of the so-called "security" practices.
The TSA’s paranoia-masked safety measures are hardly different than the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policies — both are over-the-top practices that hardly protect the public as much as they create a dichotomy between the innocent and “the system.” Unfortunately, the biggest difference between Paul’s scenario and a black male in Brooklyn are the collateral consequences. For the man in Brooklyn, he will either be issued a trumped-up ticket or held in the stationhouse so that officers can take his information and improve their precinct’s push to meet 250s and C-Summonses quotas while the detainee accepts it as another day in the neighborhood. On the contrary, Paul and his father, Congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul (R-Texas), can use this situation to magnify how our “police nation” is violating our civil liberties — and make a few dollars for their campaign war chests while they’re at it.
For a man whose entire aura oozes individual civil liberties, you would expect a politician like Congressman Paul to use his son’s situation as leverage to promote a discussion that bridges the elderly white women who were stripped to their undies when their conditions inhibited them from walking through the full-body scanners, to the black males who are disproportionately targeted by officers and issued bogus summonses. Such a dialogue would be a bold and clear cut way to pique the interest of minorities who would never fathom a GOP politician connecting to them in any way. Obviously, Mr. Smaller Government/less involvement is unlikely to tamper with the practices of local departments and agencies, but he at least has the spotlight and scenario to force two conversations with one bullhorn.
The conversation should link the two faulty practices by focusing on both their ineffectiveness and invasiveness — a task that is rather simple to prove through studies and statistics. For starters, the TSA’s $2 billion Advance Imaging Technology (AIT) can hardly determine the difference between a can of tuna and an explosive. AIT is limited in that it can only detect anomalies (such as whatever was detected on Sen. Paul’s left leg during what is being called a ‘glitch’ from this past Monday), which then requires the all-too personal pat down. As Sen. Paul put it, “Despite removing my belt, glasses, wallet and shoes, the scanner and TSA also wanted my dignity. I refused."
The TSA’s invasive, ineffective, and expensive tactics have certainly led to more stories of youth being patted down than legitimate threats of terrorism being muzzled. Whenever there has been coverage of the government halting legitimate terrorist threats, it’s via a long investigation by the CIA; the TSA is nowhere in sight.
The second half of the conversation is easier to prove, but harder to speak on a national level. With the NYPD reaching its four millionth stop in 2011 since the stop-and-frisk database started collecting stats in 2004, the data indicates that 90% of past stops were of blacks and Latinos, 93% involved the use of force, and the number of claims against the NYPD has increased by 71% between 2001 and 2011. Meanwhile, a weapon rarely ever seized.
Both Pauls' efforts to create and link a double-edged dialogue are as simple as coming straight out and speaking on both issues. They may not be able to directly sway the NYPD, but they can at least draw the public’s attention to an old ailment. Perhaps that will speed up talks and technological developments of the Department of Defense to provide gun-scanning technology that can detect the heat and radiation that are distinct to firearms within a 15- feet radius.
As Congressman Paul stated in his press release, "The elderly. The disabled. Little kids. All victims of an out-of-control police state that, while doing nothing to make us safer, is working overtime to strip away our freedoms, our rights, and our basic dignity."
Everything that’s wrong with the TSA’s practices have been wrong with the NYPD for years. Every thought and feeling of indignation that Sen. Paul faced on Monday has been felt in the inner-city for eternity. It’s time to get serious about confronting both.
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