make them look you in the eye

When choosing how to have your privacy violated (method A, nude x-ray photographs, or method B, invasive “pat-downs”) at the airport, Elusis blogs that we should opt for the pat-downs, while looking the patter-downers in the eye.  She compares TSA screenings to Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authority, and notes that compliance dropped–subjects refused to administer (fake) electric shocks to other people–when they were in the same room, confronted with the humanity of those being shocked.

Elusis also reminds us that “nothing about this is new. Private citizens being arbitrarily singled out for intrusive searches and rough treatment by authority figures because of their appearance, their ‘attitude,’ or just a momentary need for an endorphin rush by a small-minded bureaucrat? Welcome to the lives of people of color, the phenomenon of Driving While Black, the lives of women, of transpeople, of disabled people…It is no accident that women have been complaining about being pulled out of line because of their big breasts, having their bodies commented on by TSA officials, and getting inappropriate touching when selected for pat-downs for nearly 10 years now, but just this week it went viral. It is no accident that CAIR identified Islamic head scarves (hijab) as an automatic trigger for extra screenings in January, but just this week it went viral. What was different?

Suddenly an able-bodied white man is the one who was complaining.”

Elusis continues, “Because even if I am not wearing a maxi pad or an adult diaper, wearing a breast prosthetic after surgery, fitted with an ostomy bag, or living with genitals that don’t match my expressed gender, I know others are, and I think subjecting them to potential humiliation and ridicule is wrong and does not make us more safe…

Because they’re still not screening the people who clean the aircraft cabin or re-stock the soda cart, while the back side of baggage claim is still “protected” by an 8′ high chain link fence.”

Of course, Elusis’ suggestion does not really affect the lawmakers and TSA heads.  It only serves to make the un-union-izable TSA employees less comfortable with their jobs.  But, at least in this split-second when our culture is aware of such dehumanizing behaviors, let us name it as often and as fully as possible.

2 comments to make them look you in the eye

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  • …and now they are replacing those back-scatter machines with other machines which use less radiation and produce less-invasive pictures, according to a ProPublica article. The switch was *not* made for safety or privacy concerns, says the TSA, but because the new machines offer an automated detection system which speeds up the process. The downside? The new millimeter-wave machines produce a lot of false alarms.

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