So Here’s A Piece of Work

Danielle Crittenden:

I scooped up a plain black canvas carry-on bag and headed over to the security line. I had no intention of flying to New York. This was an experiment. I’d become suspicious of the lack of suspicion I’d received during my week-long veiling. I’d encountered no fear, no hostility, hardly even any curiosity. If anything, my fellow Washingtonians showed unusual courtesy to a woman in a burka.

And so it continued at the airport. The ticket agent had registered zero reaction when I’d approached the counter, except to offer an extra cheerful greeting: “Hi! Where are you travelling?”

It had been the same the day before on the Washington subway. I entered the train at morning rush hour carrying a large black backpack, which I clutched to my chest in the centre of the train. With the exception of one elderly passenger who bolted up from his seat when I got on, scurrying to the most remote end of the carriage, everyone else aboard resolutely ignored my appearance. The woman closest to my mysterious backpack glanced up and then resumed her BlackBerrying.

I can’t know what they were thinking, obviously. A few must have wondered whether I was about to explode. But evidently they’d rather be blown up than exhibit any behaviour that might be construed as intolerant.

And good for them, I suppose. “The vast majority of Muslims abhor terrorism,” we are frequently reminded, and of course that’s true. And yet, even tolerance can be taken too far.

Via, of all places, that sewer known as Free Republic. I am spending way too much time there. There are some sacrifices one should not make for one’s blog.

So let’s go over David Frum’s love interest’s experiment here. She wears a burka, hoping to be … yelled at? Argued with? Assaulted? Profiled? She’s disappointed when people don’t drag her off public transportation, throw her in jail, tear her clothes off? God, how awful for her.

It seems to escape Crittenden’s notice that the point of all this is that most Americans are not as bed-shittingly scared of terrorism as the majority of right-wing nuts would like them to be. Most Americans, after all, being grown-ups with things to read and Blackberries to type on and places to get to that interfere with, you know, our entire lives being paranoid fever dreams of a world aflame from Islam and the last five white guys holed up in a basement eating Cheetos and askingwhere the Mountain Dew is. That’s the point of her little “experiment,” that most of us have now gone back to work or school or our lives, and aren’t interested in a) assuming the worst of everyone different or b) jumping at every noise from under the bed.

This, however, is the part that made me get up from the table, go get some more coffee, play with the animals a bit and count to ten, several times:

He drew a red mark on my boarding pass. “You know the deal,” he said, ushering me on.

I nodded, but thought, “Uh oh. What deal?” Maybe now I was to be regarded with suspicion?

Before I’d even approached the metal detector, I heard a voice over the loudspeaker say, “Female assistance in Aisle 4.”

OK, now I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how far I was willing to take this experiment. Certainly not so far as an internal examination …

Because that’s the thing with little “experiments” like Crittenden’s. That fear she had? If things got too unpleasant for her, she could just whip off her burka and say, “Hee hee, just kidding!” and it would all be okay. The minute profiling actually started to have consequences, she started to worry: What would it feel like, would she be okay, what would happen to her? Never once did she then say to herself, “Hmm, I wonder if this is theactual goddamn consequence of harrassing people who mean no harm.” No, all she could think about was that maybe it was time to opt out of pretending to be someone she wasn’t and go back to her world, where people like her are okay, and suspicion and brutality are for everybody else.


9 thoughts on “So Here’s A Piece of Work

  1. Have you read the entire series over at the Huffington Post? If this one got your blood boiling, wait till you read the “I’m going to spin class in my ‘burka’ because that’s exactly what Middle Eastern women would have to do”. The whole thing just came off as pandering sensationalism to me. Danielle seems to have done the minimum research and created extreme situations for maximum impact. Many commentators point out her ignorance of what a burka is, where it’s worn, and who actually wears it. She bizarrely refers to “Islamists” all the way through, which seemed odd to me, and folk more knowledgeable than I pointed out that it often refers to a follower of Islamism, a more fundamentalist movement.
    Another commentator made the gory but salient point that “As many have pointed out, she is either misinformed or deliberately misleading readers on the prevalence of this type of covering in the Muslim world. To say that she’s going to spin class in a burka because “Islamic women have to” is like saying she’s bringing a giant poster of an aborted fetus to spin class because “Christianic women have to.”
    Like the parents in the restaurant who were “thrilled by their non reaction to me… by giving them a chance to demonstrate how tolerant they were”, Danielle seems to be reveling in the fact that she was open-minded enough to carry out this experiment when it’s pretty obvious she knew the conclusions she would draw before she started.

  2. Although, the one point in her defence, was how shocking the lack of education the airport security had regarding how to treat Muslim women. I’m all for religious sensitivity training and searches but to lower standards of security (basic ID checks!) because of ignorance or fear of insult is crazy!

  3. A, close that window and back away from the Freepers. Seriously, save yourself, we need you here.

  4. Good point about most of us not living in abject terror all the time. It makes me wonder how people like Crittenden can be pissed when she finds that other people aren’t as paranoid as shethinks she is.
    Yes, thinks she is. I doubt that this woman lives her life scared out of her wit all of the time. (Yes, I said “wit.” I don’t think she deserves the plural.) Do you think that, if Danielle Crittenden were on a subway train, and a woman in a chador, or burka, or hijab sat down near her, that she’s bolt to the rear of the car like a scared bunny? I doubt it. Leaving aside the fact that putting a few more feet between yourself and several pounds of C-4 is as effective as saying a Hail Mary before you go fishing, simple probability says that the chance of someone carrying out a suicide bomb attack, in America, in your city, on a train route you take, at the exact moment you happen to be on the train, is vanishingly small. You’re much more likely to be stung to death by bees. Seriously.
    As far as whipping off the garment and saying “just kidding!” if airport security decides to do a cavity search: Ms. Crittenden, airport security people are notorious for a) not having senses of humor while on the clock, and b) having a really low tolerance for practical jokes. Your little “experiment” is no more than an extended, unfunny practical joke.
    Jeebus. It’s like she wants to rewriteBlack Like Me, but make it sympathetic to the angry white folks.
    And that’s your gratuitous sociological observation of the day.

  5. No, my favorite line from the whole bit is “even tolerance can be taken too far.” What the hell does she mean by THAT? That she wants her fellow passengers to slam her against the wall, insist she open her backpack (sorry, her SINISTER backpack) for inspection and demand identification? WTF? I have to admit that I do react internally when I see a woman wearing a burka–not because I am afraid but because I cannot really fathom how the woman inside there can wear that thing. But then, that’s just me–I also wonder how on earth women can go to Southern Baptist churches, considering their views on women.

  6. I’m also quite enamored of the “my experience is all there is” argument.
    And this is a major part of the BS put out by the pundit classes.
    “I like W, therefore EVERYONE likes W.”
    “Bill Clinton pissed off my friend, therefore the entire country HATES him.”
    “My stocks went up, therefore the economy is FINE.”
    And here: “During the few days I wore a veil, I did not encounter much discrimination. Therefore, the women who wear a veil for forty years have never, ever been discriminated against. And by extension, no ‘Muslim-looking’ man has ever been discriminated against, either.”
    Yeah, cause she couldn’t have just been lucky for a week, huh?

  7. I don’t have the heart to go over and check — was she actually wearing a burkha? A three-piece head-covering that consists of a head veil, a face veil, and a screen over the eyes? (They’re sort of neat from a strict sartorial-wonkery perspective; some of them tie over the nose, others do not. Some of them have flip-top eye screens, others do not. And so on.)
    Or was she just wearing a hijab and being like the rest of the ignorant morons who spout off on it, but wouldn’t know anything about the vagaries of Islamic dress if their lives depended on it? (And if you listened to them, you’d think it might…)

  8. Did it occur to her that, if our government’s much vaunted Department of Homeland Security were doing its job, then the calm and confident reaction of her train mates would be perfectly reasonable? It’s been years since 9/11, does she really think it’s appropriate that we’ve come no further than to depend on random train passengers to stop attacks?
    And what would she have someone do, assuming they thought she was a suicide bomber? Approach her, knowing it might force her to detonate immediately? Scream and run to the other end of the soon-to-be-obliterated car? How would SHE respond if, during her morning rush hour commute, a bomber ended up jammed next to her? Say, “Excuse me, Islamic women make me nervous. Do you have a bomb there? Would you mind not detonating until after my stop? Thanks so much.”
    Friggin’ moron.

  9. I agree most heartedly weeth the commenter, Sra Trailerco.
    Going over to the freep looking for targets of jour well-honed invective ees one theengy.
    But, for all that gatos find comfy, donot try to actually understand them, or their, ummm, “experiments”. That way lies madness, and a steadily diminishing number of increasingly embittered one-liners.
    We need to keep jour senses well-sharpened for better targets, no?

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