By Farooq A. Kperogi
It seems fairly obvious that Nigeria is the target of the Obama administration’s mapping of what one might call the new axis of terrorism. People from this unwilling axis must perpetually pass through the crucible of “enhanced” airport screening to prove that they’re not terrorists. The addition of 13 other countries seems like a convenient afterthought.
After all, not even the September 11 attacks, the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil, caused nationals of any country to be OFFICIALLY racially profiled.
In the aftermath of the attacks, the U.S. government actually actively moved to assure Arab Muslims that they won’t suffer the vicarious consequences of the misdeeds of their kindred. Bush has been shown in many pictures holding the hands of the Saudi monarch, and Obama has even recently literally bowed before him. He later gave a mushy, conciliatory speech to the Arab Muslim world. Yet, 15 of the 19 people who perpetrated the September 11 atrocities were Saudis.
Bush mollycoddles the Saudi monarch...in spite of Sept. 11
Obama goes even further and literally bows to him...again, in spite of Sept 11
And, although the mastermind of the September 11 attacks was an Egyptian, Obama chose Egypt as the place to deliver his placatory speech to the Arab world. In fact, the country is excluded from the current list of countries in Obama’s axis of terrorism.
Now, because a crazed Nigerian zealot has attempted to commit a terrorist act, 150 million Nigerians have been condemned to stigmatization at international airports—officially. If the murderous little twit had succeeded, it is conceivable that all Nigerians in the United States would have been deported, and no Nigerian would have been allowed entry into the United States as a matter of state policy.
If September 11, as horrendous as it is, didn’t cause Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Yemen to be officially branded as nations of terrorists by a traditionally intolerant conservative Republican government, why did an ATTEMPTED attack by a Nigerian cause a liberal Democratic government to blacklist an entire country—and then add 13 other countries as an afterthought? It’s hard to resist perceiving racial undercurrents in this. (Forget about Obama being half African; he has a history of icy contempt for black people. Read my earlier article titled "The Anti-African Racist Insults Obama Got Away With in Ghana").
This is particularly so because probably up to 90 percent of Nigerians who travel to or live in the United States are Christians from the southern part of the country.
That said, I must concede that when a people’s sense of security has been violated serially, it is human for them to become paranoid and to choose to err on the side of caution. I can relate to that on a personal level. Since I was robbed once and my house burglarized twice, I have never been the same again. I have become paranoid about people’s motives, and my trust in people has waned considerably.
I personally have no problems with the transitory inconvenience of being subjected to additional security checks at the airports. However, there are many dangers with singling out only nationals of specific countries for this. I will discuss only two.
The first is psycho-social. As psychologists have known for ages, the potential for self-fulfilling stereotyping is often great. The influential American eugenicist Arthur Jensen characterizes this as the "stereotype threat" by which he means that people who feel stereotyped, or who have been stereotyped all their lives, tend to act according to that stereotype, or inadvertently authorize it, often in spite of themselves.
This doesn’t mean that Nigerians will become terrorists because they have been unjustly stereotyped as such; it only means that the officially sanctioned stereotypical generalization of Nigerians as potential terrorists will distort the comportment and feelings of self-worth of many of them in ways that unfairly reinforce the stereotype.
This has already started. An American friend of mine told me last week she boarded a plane with a Nigerian. The man, she said, looked inexplicably stressed and frazzled before and during the flight, perhaps because too many quizzical gazes were fixed on him by other passengers and by TSA officials even after the “enhanced screening” he underwent. Suddenly, she told me, the man started shaking and sweating profusely. She said she and other passengers were on their guard. “And I tell you, if he had gone to the toilet, guys would have tackled him,” she said.
The man, she later found out, was a Nigerian Christian who has lived in the United States for years. He just wasn’t used to this sort of critical, condemning stares from a bunch of hostile faces. Call it enhanced airport screening anxiety disorder (EASAD), if you like.
Another American friend told me he met a guy at a grocery store whose accent reminded him of me. So he casually asked him where he was from. He said the man first uttered “Nai...” and then immediately changed and said “Ghana.”
But the most important concern is health. According to the New York Times, there are several health risks in continual exposure to radiation from airport X-ray body scanners.
“The amount is so small that the risk to an individual is negligible, according to radiation experts,” the paper reported. “But collectively, the radiation doses from the scanners incrementally increase the risk of fatal cancers among the thousands or millions of travelers who will be exposed, some radiation experts believe.”
Since Nigerians and citizens of 13 other countries must be exposed to these toxic, carcinogenic machines each time they travel, it is safe to say that millions of people are being killed by installment—and quietly. What is worse, perhaps, is the revelation that the scan machines can’t even detect a bomb hidden in underpants.
It makes one wonder if the body scanners aren’t instruments for the retaliatory murders of Nigerian international travelers— with citizens of 13 other countries as “collateral damage.”
Sadly, the health effects of these new enhanced screening methods on citizens of 14 stigmatized countries are not being discussed widely enough. But they should. Millions of innocent people don’t deserve to die because of the attempted crime of one person.