Suspicious Activity

by Sola Osofisan

How would you define “suspicious activity”? I mean, we all agree the times are scary in today’s America, what with all sorts of extremists seeking ways to hurt innocent people. But taking into cognizance the fact that cultures are different and what may be acceptable where I come from may be frowned at where you come from, what can be termed suspicious?

Being careful should be no excuse for paranoia. Or am I writing this because I am not American and cannot fully comprehend what Americans are experiencing, even after almost 6years in this country?

I refer to the reported American Trans Air flight that was escorted into NY Airport by F-16 fighter jets on or about July 17, 2002 because a passenger had been “alarmed” by what he called “suspicious activity” – 7 members of an Indian performing group exchanging written notes. As anyone who is aware of cultures outside America would know, the Indian people are a very polite and respectful people and they probably thought it considerate to pass notes quietly, rather than speak and disturb other passengers on the flight. Can you imagine 7 people trying to hold a discussion in a crowded cabin?

We all know they were suspicious only because of their color. No one on the flight would have reported seven white people sending text messages to each other’s mobile phones or Palm Pilots. And, expectedly, the Aerospace Defense Command, rather than take chances and be the focus of public outcry later, slipped into over-drive mode. It is reported that hundreds of such responses have been recorded since September 11, 2001. It is never reported that an unfair percentage of the targets of such embarrassing attention are foreigners who speak different. It isn’t everyone who speaks different that is a terrorist relation of the Bin Ladens of this world. It could be my turn tomorrow.

America should go about rebuilding the bridges that has been destroyed, the friends short-changed, the countries shoved aside for it to become a Superpower. That is a good way to fully resolve this fear that now lives in the heart of the people. Selective support of groups and nations – to the detriment of others – is not the way to police the world. But what do I know? I’m just a bloody alien.

By the way, the 7 performers from India didn’t hurt anyone and they were eventually released by the authorities after a brief investigation.

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