South Asian groups release report on human impact of pervasive racial and religious profiling in NYC on South Asian families and community members
March 22, 2012
Today, seven South Asian organizations released a report entitled, In Our Own Words: Narratives of South Asian New Yorkers Affected by Racial and Religious Profiling, that documents the experiences and stories of New Yorkers who live in a climate of racial and religious profiling.
Through an 18-month collaborative documentation project that included surveys, focus groups, and interviews, the organizations (see Addendum) found that New Yorkers of South Asian descent are confronting the impact of profiling by national and local law enforcement agencies, even ten years after September 11th.. For example, among the subset of questionnaire respondents who provided details on interactions with law enforcement, 73% of respondents surveyed were questioned by law enforcement about their national origin; 66% reported being questioned about their religious affiliations; and 85% reported being questioned about their immigration status. South Asians also reported feeling targeted by various government entities in several arenas including interactions with local law enforcement and the FBI, immigration officials, and airport security.
At today's community and media briefing, organizational leaders and affected community members noted that while reports of profiling by the NYPD are in the news these days, it is important to remember that the NYPD is but one of many law enforcement entities that have been engaging in targeting individuals based on their nationality, ethnic origin or religious affiliation for investigations or surveillance over the past decade. This report underscores that profiling has affected virtually every facet of the daily lives of South Asians, including how we dress, how we travel, how we practice our faith, how we express our identity, and how we interact with family members, neighbors, peers, and the government. Such institutionalized discrimination has resulted in community members becoming second-class citizens and questioning their sense of belonging in the United States.
Below are a few narratives from South Asian New Yorkers from the report:
"There was a couple who started calling us names, referring to my turban, like 'Osama bin Laden - I wouldn't want to mess with you. God knows what you be hiding in that...' The staff of that cinema not only noted what he said but contacted the NYPD and said there was a possible terror alert. We were escorted out and detained by 12 cops and 3 undercover detectives." - 23-year-old Sikh man
"Yeah, I've been asked [by NYPD] about where I'm from, and my religious beliefs. I guess you can say that they didn't look down on me, but they weren't so happy about who I was or who I am." - 18-year-old Buddhist Bangladeshi student
I took off my kara [religious steel bangle worn by Sikhs] to avoid a secondary check. It's not something I like doing but, to avoid being profiled, it's something I do. - 32-year-old male Sikh software manager, JFK Airport
This report is a joint project by the New York City Profiling Collaborative with DRUM - Desis Rising Up and Moving, The Sikh Coalition, UNITED SIKHS, South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!), Coney Island Avenue Project, and Council of Peoples Organization, coordinated by South Asian Americans Leading Together. The report can be accessed at www.saalt.org.