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September 4, 2010

Racial/Ethnic Paranoia: The Latest Cat-and-Mouse

Todd Heisler/New York Times
Todd Heisler/New York Times

For catching the flavor of America’s heightened paranoia over the undocumented, the would-be terrorist and, generally, anyone who could be classified as “other,” this is one of the better  photos I’ve seen in a while.  Though it’s crossing no borders, immigration officials have been doing (yeah, right) “random” document checks on runs like this one from Chicago-to-New York.  Besides Amtrak, Greyhound seems to also be seeing these kinds of inspections.

What makes the picture, though, is the wary look of the black conductor. In the current atmosphere, it’s hard to even know who “we” are.

Border Sweeps in North Reach Miles Into U.S. (NYT)

  • Lenox

    To say nothing of the fact that the ‘victims’ here appear to be peaceful Sihks rather than them gosh-darn bomb-totin’ Muslims. But yes, all foreigners look alike.
    I feel sorry for the conductor – she knows what’s coming soon…

  • http://homelessonthehighdesert.wordpress.comm Ten Bears

    They all – jew/christian/muslim – bow down to the same damned dog.

  • black dog barking

    Our country’s biggest single investment over the past decade has been whatever it is we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. The skill set acquired by those serving on the ground in those theaters is based on maintaining top down control of the indigenous population. This image shows how we repurpose those skills for domestic consumption. Chalk it up as yet another collateral damage.

    • Stella

      Amen! Aren’t we all collateral damage.
      This is a great photo.

  • Wayne Dickson

    The conductor (?) is separated visually as well as physically, by the yellow stripe, for example.

    • Lucaites

      Actually, notice that she straddles the stripe. Almost as if her status–her citizenship–is on the border, so to speak. And given the efforts to reopen discussion of the fourteenth amendment her expression of consternation comes as little surprise. Who knows what will happen to our definition of citizenship in that context.

  • g

    I love the grouping of the five people’s heads and gazes – they are grouped like a five-petaled flower, gazing at the center. Great compositional moment. The woman’s scarf and salwar kameez draws the eye – the diagonal of the train also points to the grouping.

  • lytom

    My eyes go to the visible backpack and jeans getting on the train…Interesting contrast to the 3 travelers with a suitcase detained by the eyes of homeland security…Racial profiling, while the conductor lets the backpack and jeans pass without notice and seems to accept “the check up by the authority.”

  • cmac

    This is the future of the once-great United States, and to paraphrase the old saying, soon they’ll come for us. My white, Christian, hard-working sister and brother-in-law were singled out for extensive searches in Boston as they boarded a plane bound for Iowa. The reason? My niece married an immigrant from Pakistan and converted to Islam; the young couple with their newborn (my sister’s first grandchild) had accompanied my sister and brother-in-law to the airport.

    The lesson? Spurn your children if they marry outside the ‘accepted norm,’ or face government intrusion into your life.

    The conductor waiting in the background looks apprehensive; she’s been there, and fears it won’t be long before she goes there again.

  • Nemo

    The techniques of the overseas security complex is making its way home to the US.
    The look on the conductors face is priceless. She knows it is only a matter of time when the paranoia will wind its way to her kith and her kin.
    The drones are beginning to patrol parts of the Mexican (and Canadian) border. Troops will start to patrol parts of the US/Mexican border.
    A Bangladeshi friend of mine and his family got singled out in Chicago for the “treatment” on their way back from visiting family. The US border agents were extremely rude; but he knew that not responding in the “proper” manner would only make his life worse.

  • tinwoman

    It would take about half a day to have the training session that would inform the guards these people are not Muslims (yes, as said above they are Sikhs–not as peaceful as the poster suggests, but their beef is not with us). But I really don’t think that’s the point. Everybody knows that if terrorists want to bomb the train, they will–there is no real way to stop it. important thing is to appear as if we are doing something (and when terrorists do bomb the train, they are quite liable to be poor whites).

  • ep

    I think a bit is being read into the woman’s expression. To me she looks curious & professional. Maybe a bit impatient, maybe skeptical. Not beaming with pride, though. And I don’t disagree with the sentiment behind what you all think her face is saying – I just think she’s being more inscrutable than all that.

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