Step Two: The Lawsuit

This week, the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit on my behalf to hold the parties responsible for arresting and detaining me on 9/11/11 for “suspicious behavior” on a flight from Denver to Detroit.

That “suspicious behavior” seems to mean having an Arabic last name and sitting next to two men of South Asian descent. Nothing more. You can read about the experience I had in a previous blog post.

The ACLU, working in tandem with lawyers from the national ACLU office and private attorneys from two firms, have made the claims through the lawsuit that my constitutional rights were violated and I was racially profiled. You find a summary of the claim at the ACLU’s website.

Here’s an excerpt:

Through public records, the ACLU discovered that Hebshi was removed from the flight because she was seated next to the men and because of her ethnic name. A small number of passengers noticed the two men go to the bathroom in succession and complained to the flight crew. The two men were cleared of any wrongdoing and were also released from custody later that evening.

The complaint cites a number of violations, including unreasonable search and seizure prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, and discrimination prohibited by the federal civil rights laws. The lawsuit was filed against Frontier Airlines as well as officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Wayne County Airport Authority, Detroit Metro Airport Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

We held a press conference in Detroit on Tuesday announcing the case and explaining the reasons for taking action. I made a statement, which you can read in full on the ACLU’s blog here.

Here’s an excerpt:

This, certainly, was a difficult day for me, but I also recognize that many others have experienced similar horrors because of racial profiling. Through this lawsuit, I hope to reclaim the dignity that is taken from us when racial profiling trumps the American values of fairness and equality.

I appreciate the tremendous support I have received from friends, family and strangers who feel as outraged as I am that this happened. And I hope that through this lawsuit not only will public awareness grow of this issue, but some changes will be implemented into the system so innocent people are not targeted as criminals.

Here are some of the media reports since Tuesday’s press conference:



Too good not to share

Too good not to share

Got this from a friend on Facebook. Happy MLK Day + Inauguration Day, and a day to reflect on how far we’ve come, yet how far we still need to go.

The Ohio Experiment

Well, I think I’m still in the Heartland. Though I’m not really sure what Ohio is considered: Heartland, Midwest, Mideast? All of the above?

Anyway, we’re here now.

We keep moving further east. But I do believe eventually we will do a 180 and move in the other direction.

The reason for this move is my husband’s residency in emergency medicine at a Toledo hospital. It’s a three-year stint, and so we are making the most of it.

So far, my observations of Ohio as compared to Iowa as compared to California are few (I don’t get out much):

  • Same general summer weather pattern–hot and humid. Ohio is a little more tolerable, though, and the same mode for cooling off is the local swimming pool. Northwest Ohio, however, has more natural waterways in proximity that we intend to explore.
  • Same propensity toward neat, trim lawns. Our new neighborhood, though more affluent and newer than our old one in Des Moines, does have a number of houses who do not care if there are more weeds than grass. But, these lawns also have sprinkler systems, perhaps a reflection of the less total inches of rain that falls here in the summer.
  • The suburbs are more sprawling, older and have less character. This is not to say that West Des Moines has much character, but they are neater and not as laden with blight. Toledo metro is very spread out, littered with strip malls lining wide avenues and covered in concrete and asphalt. The age and faltering economy of the outlying areas has caused much blight to occur. There are a lot of vacant buildings and overgrown lots, and there’s little new construction.
  • More shopping options, but fewer Starbucks. Toledo has a Macy’s, an H&M and a natural foods co-op: three stores I appreciate having around that were nowhere near driving distance in Des Moines. But Des Moines had a Trader Joe’s. The nearest TJ’s around here is in Ann Arbor, 45 minutes north, where there is also a Cost Plus/World Market and a Whole Foods. There is an IKEA about an hour away, and a major metropolitan airport–Detroit–less than an hour away.
  • The people seem a little less overtly friendly than in Iowa, and there is a stronger accent here, which was a surprising find. It sounds like a mix of Chicago, East Coast and Wisconsin.
  • There are a lot of Semites here–Jews and Arabs, which is a welcome demographic for me, being a mixture of those two people. There’s a Muslim family across the street who live next to Jews and we live next door to another Jewish family. I’m interested to see what the winter holidays look like.
  • Downtown Toledo is not a place where you want to be. It is vacant. It even feels vacant during work hours on a weekday. There are a few tall buildings, but not a lot of revitalization or interesting things to see or do. Des Moines has been slowly attracting more restaurants, bars, stores and residents to its downtown, and while it’s by no means as bustling as San Francisco or San Diego, it is getting better.
  • Fewer outlets for yoga here. But there are a lot of Pilates studios, and it seems like people are really into triathlons.
  • It is very flat. Pancake flat. In the sense that you would just be able to go on forever in a straight line.

More observations to come as life here goes on…

The results are in!

Well, I do admit that my experiment was not done in the most scientific of ways. Still, I think the results are interesting, and I’d like to share them.

I am looking to see if my Facebook “friends” represent as much diversity as I would like to think that I have among my friends. I looked at Race/Ethnicity, Religion, Political Affiliation and Views and the size of the city or town a person lives in.

Out of 365 Facebook friends, I received 60 responses (15.6%). Admittedly, the sample is not large enough to have a high confidence rate — it’s about 95% confidence +/-20% — to be certain that the responses reflect the true spectrum of my Facebook friends in entirety. Also, I was limited in scope by the bounds of Survey Monkey, which allows only 10 questions before requiring one to upgrade to a paid account. I also, in retrospect, made some deep errors in questioning — particularly in asking about religious identity— and leaving out important categories on diversity, such as disability and geographic location.

Nonetheless, this is what I found:

My Facebook friends are:

  • Politically Liberal
  • Racially White
  • Straight
  • Believers in God

Now these are broad strokes painted from the results. I have decided to analyze the results of each of the 10 questions in the survey. These will be done in a series of posts.

A new experiment

Seems like this blog is all about experimentation.

In a moment of solitude I had myself wondering if my idea of myself, that I’m a relatively open minded person who enjoys a good bit of diversity around her, is reflected among my friends.

I turned to Facebook–a likely destination–where nearly 400 of my “friends” from past lives and selves converge. The thought was, if my Facebook friends reflected the diversity of which I think I have in my life, then all’s well. If not, well, maybe I’m just living in a fantasy world that people really can have a diverse group of friends. It would support the recent reports that like-minded Americans are clumping themselves together in geographic locations.

Stay tuned to see how this experiment concludes…

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