Shortly before my mid term in the summer school I was attending at Tufts University, I was faced with another first -- my first physical run in with racial profiling.
I was sitting on the train the Tuesday of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. On a normal stop, two police officers had boarded the train. I initially did not pay attention, too busy thinking about my midterm… but they had approached me, asked me to re-pack and had me step off the train.
Outside, my belongings were searched, I was asked to take off my jacket, and also asked for some ID. The entire time, some 10 or 15 minutes while the train stood waiting, all I could think about was being late for my midterm, and what excuse I could formulate for the professor. However, as I arrived home from a long day, the sequence of events began to replay in my head, there were many unanswered questions I had and when I thought about how many people witnessed this event…I began to feel humiliated.
I had known about the "random checks" that the MBTA and other groups had set up in order to ensure security for the Democratic National Convention, but this was no random check. I had been pinpointed specifically because of the way I appeared: the jeans, jacket, and perfect American English were not the problem, it was the hijab, the simple piece of cloth carefully placed about my head that supposedly made me a threat to someone.
I was later told by one of the police officers that a concerned person on the train had reported a "suspicious person" (me), and that even though the officers saw nothing suspicious themselves, they had to take necessary precautions.
"Necessary precautions" is a phrase that has been uttered by the lips of officials, a phrase posted on flyers around the city, and lastly, a phrase that blinds and pacifies the public as it gives potentially indefinite power to those who may abuse it. Although these supposedly random checks, and other ‘necessary precautions’ might seem insignificant, these actions are a doorway leading to the escalation of prejudice. It is a doorway that must be closed and locked. It is a doorway that should have never existed to begin with.
This is exactly way I decided to get involved with the American Civil Liberties Union’s fight to end such practices. As a teenager, I have always been interested in Civil Rights, and my incident on the train drove me to make my community and the people of America learn about the wrong that is being done to them, even when they do not even know it. I feel as if it is up to me to reveal these wrongdoings, but also do my part to help fix them and encourage others to do the same.
Being an activist for civil liberties is not just a label. I truly feel as if it is inherently apart of me, and I am honored to assume that position. Between my work with the ACLU, Amnesty International, and the activism I have encouraged at my school during workshops and activities, I truly feel that the being an activist is who I am, and who I will be for the rest of my life.