A little over a week ago
A San Diego teacher and her two children were detained by Border Patrol agents after she refused to tell them her citizenship status, out of protest after learning her her Latino friends are often questioned at checkpoints far from the Mexico border.
San Diego Shane Parmely wanted to bring attention to what she feels is discrimination and profiling on the part of the Border Patrol at inland immigration checkpoints.
“My entire life, everybody just got waved through. There was no stopping,” Parmely said.
Parmely has blonde hair and a light complexion.
So, when she was recently on vacation and driving through New Mexico and had to go through an immigration checkpoint, far from the border, she refused to tell them her citizenship.
Agents detained her and her children for about 90 minutes.
Her video went viral, local television statements picked up the story, and a Border Control spokesperson issued a statement- consistent with interpretation by the ACLU- explaining
At a Border Patrol checkpoint, an agent may question a vehicle’s occupants about their citizenship, place of birth, and request document proof of immigration status, how legal status was obtained and make quick observations of what is in plain view in the interior of the vehicle.
During the course of the immigration inspection, if an occupant refuses to answer an agent’s questions, the agent may detain the driver for a reasonable amount of time until he or she can make a determination regarding the occupant’s immigration status.
Interviewed by a local television station, Parmely acknowledged the inconvenience when someone questions what he or she views as an abuse of authority but "when you see something that is clearly racist, you have a choice." At the checkpoint, she had told one of the officers, "the people that we see you actually making show papers are all brown."
Brown? According to Wikipedia, "brown"
is a metaphor for race based solely on human skin color. In racialist anthropology, the color brown and the term brown people were used to describe a series of hypothesized racial groups that included various populations from North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, North America and South America.
If Parmely had a clue, by "brown" she was referring to people from various areas, including Southeast Asia, which would suggest the question: is the Border Patrol really stopping ethinic Vietnamese and Indonesians?
Race is an elusive, confusing construct, made no less so because most Latinos probably are white. Presumably, Parmely was referring to Latinos, who may in fact be disproportionately stopped by the Border Patrol. But she didn't complain about discrimination against Latinos or Hispanics, but rather pulled out the New Age term "brown," which is imprecise, inaccurate, and vulnerable to misinterpretation.
This, of course, doesn't make Shane Parmely "racist" or bigoted, though comparing the agents to "brownshirts... in Germany" probably doesn't help. It does mean that she is taking on a serious issue in a thoughtless, unserious manner. Better that she research the topic, make a rational case, and by all means- as Officer #2 pointed out- stop blaming the guy or gal stocking shelves at Wal-Mart for the sins of the Walton family.