Column: When is racial profiling the answer?

The challenges airline travelers face today go well beyond flights being overbooked. They still extend to threats of terrorism.

Let’s establish a few facts:

• One estimate says more than 90,000 airline flights take off and land safely every day. An online source puts it at nearly 105,000 for the number of commercial flights per day.

• According to dated stats from 2000, the world’s commercial jet airlines carried approximately 1.09 billion people on 18 million flights. Ten years later the numbers stood at 1.73 million passengers flying per day. In 2014, there were 37.4 million flights scheduled.

Wow, a lot of people and a lot of flights, huh?!

• The man who tried to ignite an explosive on a Northwestern flight coming into Detroit on Christmas Day 2001 was reportedly black and Islamic, for example. However, the media reported that al-Qaeda picked him because he spoke good English and because he was well-educated. Thus, he would “fit in.”

Put all of this together and one wonders how we will ever be safe flying and how racial profiling could help.

Actually, we are pretty darn safe and, no, profiling is not the answer. Frankly, even today terrorists do not always come in only one color. Heck, even criminals in this country are not all of one race. “Those people,” I’ve heard some locals say, “are always bad.”

No, there are bad people, not bad races or colors.

What’s the answer then? Since the shoe bomber case not much has changed, except the form they take — forget the shoes, now it’s laptop computers.

If the ban on laptops, currently for U.S.-bound flights from the Middle East and Africa, were to expand to Europe or domestic U.S. flights, it would hit our economy and likely spread to other devices.

So, considering that, how can we make the privilege of airline travel safe?

News of full-body scans being implemented reminds me of the 1990 movie “Total Recall” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In it, when he (Ahhhnold) is trying to get to Mars, he walks through a full-body, X-ray scanner. That would take the color of skin and religious faith out of the equation.

While many people see this as an invasion of privacy, I think it’s prudent. However, it’s unrealistic when you review the statistics of how many people fly each day or year. That’s because each and every airport would need one or more and I don’t see our government affording that.

As for the “No Fly” and “Watch” lists of Homeland Security go, the shoe bomber was apparently on the Watch List, not the No Fly List. The former failed but would have gotten him an extra search, the latter could have prevented him from getting through security altogether. But, not everyone who needs to be is on either list.

Another solution, I suppose, would be to have the Army patrol the airports, like in many of the Middle Eastern, African and other countries. A man carrying an assault rifle would make any would-be terrorist nervous.

And those laptops? Again, how far are we willing to go? The possibilities and the costs are endless, and have nothing to do with whether you actually have a seat on a plane. As a result, I’d rather stay closer to home or volunteer to be the one inconvenienced by overbooking. What do you think?

Follow Tim Wiederaenders on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.