Guest Opinion: Beware of Racial Profiling a ‘Suspicious Person’

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Guest Opinion: Beware of Racial Profiling a ‘Suspicious Person’

By NWN Editors

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As alumni, we can attest to the rich power of diversity and multiculturalism at Niles West. Walking through the halls and hearing the sounds of over 70 languages enabled us to shape global and inclusive worldviews, challenge assumptions, and embrace the power of difference.

With the recent announcement of a suspicious person alert in Skokie, we are concerned about the danger that this individual may pose. We have seen how hatred and discrimination can seriously threaten religious communities. In 1977, neo-Nazis attempted to march through Skokie and promote a white supremacist agenda motivated by racial and religious hatred towards the Jewish community. In 2012, a Morton Grove resident shot at the MCC mosque just a mile away from Niles West High School with a high-velocity air rifle while worshipers were inside. This attack took place just five days after the Sikh Temple Massacre in Wisconsin, where a white supremacist opened fire and killed six Indian and Indian American Sikh worshipers.

In light of the suspicious person alert, we urge the Skokie Police, Niles West security and District 219 staff to use their best judgment in identifying and confronting the suspicious individual while simultaneously recognizing the dangers of unconscious and conscious racial bias toward the Arab and Middle Eastern communities in Skokie. We also hope that they avoid any undue harm towards other communities of color that can result from racial profiling. It is possible that paranoia, stress, and concern regarding this individual may motivate the racial profiling of students and Skokie residents of Arab or Middle Eastern descent. But we must be better than this. As Americans, we have seen the harmful effects of racism in this country. Just weeks ago, a young Sudanese American student Ahmed Mohamed in Irving, Texas brought an impressive homemade clock to school and instead of recognition for his technological feat, he faced racially-motivated harsh treatment by his school’s teachers and staff. Too often, we have seen hatred, assumption, and bias toward historically marginalized communities cause emotional trauma and take lives.

We trust that the Skokie Police and school staff are working diligently to address this issue and keep students and our communities safe. We also implore them to challenge any unconscious bias or assumptions that may motivate the profiling or targeting of Arab or Middle Eastern students, Skokie residents, or visitors as this alert unfolds.

Noor Hasan
Niles West High School ‘10
Northwestern University ‘14

Nashiha Alam
Niles West High School ‘12
Loyola University ‘16

Ainee Fatima
Niles West High School ‘10
DePaul University ‘15

Irfana Y Lakada
Niles West High School ‘09
Loyola University ‘13
Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy ‘17