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She would have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids

Friday's Florida "Alligator Alley" incident may be out-and-out racism, as Partha seems to believe. Or, it could be an honest mistake, with the witness, Eunice Stone, mishearing something and jumping to a hasty conclusion. Or,it could have been a cruel joke by the three detained men. Right now, there's no way to know. And there may never be.

We can go back and forth trying to puzzle it out. On the one hand, why would the woman lie about it? She could be a racist -- but her actions, which included writing down a license plate and calling the police, seem pretty elaborate just to get some travellers who were passing through -- or a publicity seeker -- but she seemed pretty uncomfortable with the media frenzy. On the other hand, why would the men say these things? If they were really terrorists, they were incredibly careless. If they were joking, they were incredibly thoughtless. But, in the end, trying to deduce the truth without having the facts is silly.

Also silly was all the media hype. Given that a major road was closed for such a long time, it would be absurd not to report the story. But the media didn't have many facts, and they kept repeating them over and over. Ah, the wonders of all-news cable channels.

But if that's not very helpful, neither is exaggeration on the other side. Partha says that this is "racial profiling taken to its extreme." And family members complained:

"Just because of the way we look or the way we choose to live our lives, we're persecuted," said Hana Gheith, a sister of one of the men.
To read these quotes, you'd think that some vaguely black-looking people were picked at random, hauled off to jail, and beaten until they confessed. What actually happened? Specific people who were suspected of involvement in an ultra-serious crime were stopped and inconvenienced. I don't mean to downplay what it must feel like to be detained by the police for a day, but that's all that happened. They were not rounded up and put in internment camps -- which is what "racial profiling taken to its extreme" would be. They were not beaten or summarily executed. They were just questioned. If that's the worst problem these people face in their lives, they should consider themselves lucky. 3,000 people faced a lot worse a year ago. What would have happened had Stone or the police ignored this evidence, and something happened? Heads would have rolled (hopefully -- nobody has actually been punished for 9/11, yet).

One final note: I interpreted Stone's comments about the accents of the men differently than Partha did; I read them to say that given what the people were saying, she was surprised to hear them speaking without accents. Assuming that's what she meant, it seems reasonable. (Of course, I don't know where people from Georgia get off talking about American accents.)


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