Opinion: What’s in a name?

POSTED: 07/12/11 4:27 PM

Racial or ethnic profiling based on skin color is out the window. In these days it seems it’s done using a person’s name.

Case in point is what happened to Dutch Councillor Gadiza Bouazani. Israeli authorities arrested her at the airport in Tel Aviv and put her in a cell with 22 other women because they thought she was going to join a group of flotilla activists. They did this because of Arabic name. Had they really taken the time to listen to her and investigate her claim, they’d have been able to send her on her way to do volunteer work.

The matter of racial profiling is most definitely a hot potato especially since it is illegal in some countries and there’s enough evidence to prove that the system just doesn’t work. In fact it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that all generalizations are a flaming pile of gas.

Albeit any mention of heading to Palestine will send many Israelis into a bit of a flurry because of the ongoing debates about occupation of territory and recognition as a nation state and throw up red flags about the person heading there. Those flags undoubtedly go up higher if and when the person’s passport indicates that they are involved in politics, but to make the fact that the person has an Arabic last name is…well…ridiculous. It would almost be like saying Richardsons are all politicians because 20 percent of the 15 MPs in our current parliament (3) have that last name or that all civil servants are lazy because of the horrible image that we get because of the ones we meet and are lazy.

At the end of the day generalizations serve no purpose other than to create misinformation and to place people in little boxes. In Bouzani’s case she was cast into a prison because of something she had no control over: her family background led people to have a narrow view of her. That is unfair to her and to anyone who has to suffer that same frustration.

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