This is the cover of a book by Moustafa Bayoumi. I ran across it this morning when I was thinking that I wanted to write about profiling--a topic much in the news and in our minds these days. The subtitle of the book (in case it's too small for you to read) is "Being Young and Arab in America." Bayoumi has won several awards for this book, and in an interview, he explains that the book's title came from a question posed decades earlier by W.E.B. DuBois. In the book, Bayoumi presents portraits of men living that title question. I admire the whole concept and plan to read the book.
I've been thinking about profiling because of the two recent terrorist events and the government's new thinking about how to try to head off future terrorist attacks. The word profiling sounds ominous, with its attempt to boil people down to a few variables--to look at them from the side, so to speak, rather than full in the face. I'd always before thought of profiling as racial or ethnic, which it often is, but now I've learned that it can also involve other aspects of identity: behavioral (acting nervous?), national, religious (of course), and probably lots of other things. The idea is to narrow the field; this is filtering, as we do on certain websites when we're trying to find a restaurant of a particular cuisine in a particular neighborhood in a particular price range. A related concept is screening, which they do at the airport, when they x-ray our carry-ons and have us walk through the metal detector and compare our ID with our tickets.
My mother-in-law does not think they're doing a very good job of any of this--profiling, filtering, screening. She thinks the focus should be on the people who go to particular mosques or study with particular religious leaders--as did the man who did the shooting at Fort Hood and the man who tried to blow up the flight to Detroit. I guess this would be behavioral profiling. Once the profile is applied, everyone in the group becomes a problem. Complicated. Did you see the debate in the New York Times on the subject of profiling? It's worth reading.