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The Ethnically Ambiguous Presidential Terrorist

Ever since I can remember, I have been targeted for special airport security screenings. Actually, let’s be real, I’m targeted for special screening in real life all the time.

I’m an ethnically ambiguous girl that has a penchant for the alternative.

For most close-minded people, that means I’m a freak from a unknown country (but probably one they hate)

I didn’t take my first trip until I was 18 years old. I had never flown before, and I was in a post September 11th world, so security had already been heightened quite a bit. My unfortunate racial/personality profiling woes began then.

Now, I don’t want to jinx my record or anything, but…

I have been stopped for special screening on every single trip I have been on from 2006 through the present.

I understand that security measures are necessary, but it is pretty hard for a frequent traveler to believe in this whole “random checks” bullshit with a streak as impressive as mine.

This is what tends to happen:

A family decked out in crocs and Hawaiian T-shirts pass by, then a couple of gaggles of older women enjoying their retirement. A swarm of businessmen toting their wheelie laptop bags shove their way through like the entitled assholes they typically are in airports (that’s a whole separate rant) and then, I walk through, with all my items neatly set out in the proper bins, nothing in my pockets, ready to follow the rules.

Ma’am, we’re going to need you to step aside for a random screening

Oh really, now? A random screening, you say? How very interesting that you chose the tattooed, olive-skinned, solo traveler for your screening and none of the equally suspicious (or unsuspicious, I should say) people whom just whizzed right past you.

What I'm pretty sure Security sees.

What I’m pretty sure Security sees.

 

A closer approximation to what I look like when going through security. Notice My shoes and jacket removed!

A closer approximation to what I look like when going through security. Notice My shoes and jacket removed!

It’s rarely just a simple pat down. We’re talking the works. My hands are swabbed for bomb residue, I’m sent through the crazy X-Ray machine (which is probably slowly giving my cancer) and then forced to have an invasive pat down anyway. Once they finish accosting me physically, they move on to my carefully packed bags. “To hell with your organization system! They seem to yell at me with their beady little suspicious eyes as they rip out my clothes and check my books page by page, as if I would have itty bitty envelopes of cocaine hidden between the pages of my novels.

Always a disappointment

I feel I am enraging these people by letting them down. They want to hate my race, but they can’t figure out what it is. They want the fact that I am traveling solo to justify their suspicions. They truly and deeply want to find that half-consumed bottle of water long forgotten at the bottom of my bag so that they could order an intensive interrogation in a room with a lone flickering light bulb. Half the time, when they are finally forced to wave me through, I can almost picture them shaking their fists at me saying, “Curses, foiled again!

President or a terrorist?

One would think the distinction between president and terrorist would be a pretty clear-cut one, but I did not find this to be true in Argentina. My last name is Kirchner, which just so happens to be the same last name as the current and former presidents of Argentina, Nestor and Cristina Kirchner.

This is perhaps why my issues with security began so early

Kirchner is not a common name in Argentina. In fact, it’s pretty rare, seeing as it’s of German origin. I understood the fascination with my last name, but never the suspicions. Sure, it’s a little weird that a traveler has the same last name as the president, but does that really make it any more likely that I am a terrorist? The Powers That Be in Argentina sure as hell seem to think so.

Endless bag searches. Extra questions at security. Birthday presents sent by my mother ripped open so that they could interrogate me about every single item, down to the Airhead candies and jeans.

Aggressive pat downs that were reminiscent of horny high school boys just trying to cop a feel before their hands could be slapped away.

I mean, sweet Jesus Argentina, why would a criminal change their name to match the president’s?! And if I were, in fact, related to the president, what makes you think I would even have to deal with you? Don’t you think Auntie Cristina could hook me up with a private jet, or at least first class?!

So I would like to officially declare something once and for all:

I call Bullshit on the “random” searches

Random my ass, airlines. And let’s go ahead and throw foreign post offices into this collective “F you” as well. If you are going to search me because you think I look shady as shit, just say so. As it stands, you are simply insulting me with your lies.

And for the record, I’m a Cherokee Japanese American. Yep, that’s right, once upon a time a Cherokee Indian decided to procreate with a Japanese immigrant and thus the Ethnically Ambiguous Presidential Terrorist was born. So hate me for my tattoos and independence, and if you want to hate me for my race, you damn well better make sure you are hating on the right one.

39 Responses to The Ethnically Ambiguous Presidential Terrorist

  • Rachel says:

    I remember that time in Colombia where your bags were searched and you were questioned while innocent-looking Shirley Temple me got to walk right through.

    • reasek says:

      They searched me TWICE that time! Remember? The guy searched both my bags and then 2 steps later I was searched by someone else AND felt up by that burly lady. That was a full cupping of the boob!

  • Erik says:

    I was surprised I didn’t get my car searched on the way back into the U.S. The border agent was thoroughly confused by what a travel blogger was, and why there was a whole conference of those people. Add on to that how hard it is to explain the contractor system at Fed Ex for which I work at my regular job, I was sure he wasn’t buying any of it, but he let me go.
    Erik recently posted..Photo Essay- Sunrise at The Blue Water Bridge, Michigan-OntarioMy Profile

    • Rease says:

      I was surprised we had no problems on the way up! We seemed a bit suspicious, two people driving into Canada who are from totally different states and admit to meeting on the internet haha. I’m glad my bad luck didn’t spread to you!

    • Rease says:

      haha I don’t think I am doing much for security other than making them feel important, but I do what I have to in order to fly!

    • Rease says:

      Haha yes, much like my dating woes in Buenos Aires – horribly experiences tend to make excellent blog posts.

  • Erica says:

    Well this one hits home a bit much for me lol!

    I have Shaun’s last name, Kuschel – which always throws people for a loop. They just see brown and assume. I get checked often. So does Shaun. The tattoos definitely don’t help.

    I’m Mexican American with a twist of Spanish gypsy and Apache Indian.

    America’s melting pot at its finest. <3
    Erica recently posted..Roadblocks, Firefighters, and Puppies (or Ch-Ch-Changes!)My Profile

  • Frank says:

    My Latina wife was always “pulled to the left” when arriving back to Canada and I notice that wherever we go they always spend a little more time studying her passport than they do mine. For sure it’s bullshit!
    Keep up the good work!
    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted..Falling for the Bangkok Gem ScamMy Profile

    • reasek says:

      yeah, that doesn’t surprise me! I’m sorry to hear she has troubles as well. Thanks for the comment and compliments!

  • Donny says:

    This blog post was great to read. I don’t always travel via airplane, but when I do I’m usually sifted into the body scanner line or having my hands swabbed for bomb residue.

    I identify myself as white since the majority of my make up is German and English, but I guess my trace amounts of Native American express itself as more olive than the rest of my family. I’ve even had people ask me if I’m Lebanese (two separate occasions, strangely specific…) and another person has thought I was Latino. I dunno. But almost every time I go through airport security, I’m stopped for extra “random” security when my boyfriend just waltzes through. I’m even similarly dressed to him with a polo and jeans (yes, I’m a gay male). I guess I’ll see what happens when I fly across the state tomorrow.

    • reasek says:

      Sorry to hear you are also targeted! It’s honestly more the insult of the lies that bother me. I always show up with plenty of time to get to my gate but I don’t need to be lied to and harassed on my way there!

  • Joanne says:

    I am a white middle aged Canadian female, no tatoos, no criminal record always honest it appears to a fault. I have gone through security probably close to 2 dozen times in the last 4 or 5 years and I think all but maybe 2 or 3 times I have been pulled aside and patted down and hands swabbed etc, while whoever else I am travelling with goes on through. They tell me it is random but I have gotten to the point I just start laughing because I feel I should take bets on it with people it is such a joke..the last time my boarding pass had a special stamp put on it and I was told do not smudge it or you will have to come back and be checked again or not allowed to board. I also seem to be questioned endlessly driving over the border between Canada and the states and have had my vehicle searched several years back. It would be nice to know what I ever did to deserve this treatment.

  • Jamie says:

    I’m a white British male. The last two times I’ve been been abroad I have been stopped by police – both times when I have been returning from my destination. The first time was when I landed back in the UK and was about to collect my luggage, which I found particularly odd as I had already been on the flight! The policeman was incredibly rude to me, asked to see my passport, took it away without warning me, and eventually returned with it after discussing it with somebody else. No explanation was given. The second time was after I had gone through customs but before boarding my flight, even though nothing suspicious was found during the x-ray process. Both times I was asked several times if I have ever been in trouble with the police (which I haven’t). The only reason I can think I was targeted is because I have a shaved head and a naturally nervous disposition, unless I am on some sort of ‘watch list’ I don’t know about! Obviously this isn’t a patch on what you’ve experienced, but these experiences have left me disenchanted, and although I am not sure why I feel like this, I feel that I was specifically targeted for some reason. I will be interested to see if it happens again the next time I go abroad!

    • reasek says:

      That’s terrible! I have never had anyone just walk away with my passport, that would have freaked me out for sure.

      I’m headed to London on Tuesday, it’s my first time in Europe so I’m curious as to how I will be treated!

    • gary whittaker says:

      Im a pasty white Englishman who is ALWAYS stopped at customs , i returned back from Spain last night and i was searched there , i was swabbed …the works ! And when i was leaving the UK i was seached too , gggrrrrrrr ! I wouldnt mind but ive never taken drugs or commited a crime in my life , there were a gang of young guys in the queue and they never got stopped , if anything , they would be the ones likely to be bringing drugs back to the UK or handled them in Spain , its happened to me every trip , ive kept quiet , but i am going to say something at one point ….

      • reasek says:

        It’s so strange who gets chosen. I am tempted to apply for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck but also terrified I will be denied and make it worse for myself haha.

  • Aaron Fahrtzmeller says:

    I highly doubt that these annoying searches are random, in fact, they are not at all random according to the airline purser that I recently travelled with

  • nedyel says:

    Reading your article made my day! I am a brown skinned latina and I just went through security and got the BS random search AGAIN! I can say at least 70 to 75 percent of the times I’ve traveled I have been that lucky person. I thought to myself if there was something I was doing wrong, like being a physician or never having problems with the law. I realized it is just my color. Thank you America for making me feel unwanted whenever I go to the airports.

    • reasek says:

      Haha I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’m sorry to hear you are also always “randomly” selected but at least next time it happens to you, you can remember that another brown-skinned girl is suffering with you in spirit.

  • Corinne says:

    I’m always selected and I’m now convinced, it’s not so random. This past week it happened again. My whole family went through and walah, I get pulled aside and my 6 year old asks what they are doing to my hands. I scream “checking for gunpowder, and next there going to touch my boobies”. I think my name must be similiar to someone on the terrorist list or they just like copping a feel?

    • reasek says:

      Yeah it’s definitely possible that your name is similar or the same as someone on a list. Every time I travel with my boyfriend, he does something so bumbly and awkward, like having to go through the metal detector 4 times, but I am still the one that gets screened.

  • Mikala says:

    I was searching for the reason this happens to me all the time! I look somewhat like you, but have no tattoos. I try to look as nondescript as possible so I don’t get stopped but about 80% of the time I do. Maybe they just stop a normal looking white person every so often to make it look random? It’s so frustrating. I would love to know so I could change whatever behaviors are causing me to get singled out!

    • reasek says:

      You could have been put on a list. People I know who work in the military/government have told me that I have most likely been flagged and will pretty much always get stopped, no matter what I do!

  • kfish says:

    Yes, I was just pulled aside on about 85% of the time when everyone else is just let through on my recent international trip. I won’t travel anymore because I will also get more radiation through those full body scans just because they want to look at me. (I’ve been told I am attractive with big boobs). By the way unless these people are robots no such thing as random.
    Basically I think there are two reasons for the selection. One is obvious as in mentioned above but to my observation it could also be the case that sometimes customs officers try to pick the person that they think will tolerate the treatment, a bit like a scape goat on behalf of all the passengers.
    It is very humiliating and unfair to pick out one person – and if they were really serious about stopping terrorism and there was some justice in the system they would be screening everyone.
    Anyway it seems to be the same people getting targeted all the time – women. I was going to suggest maybe “A current Affair” or something like “60 minutes” might be interested in your story.

  • gary whittaker says:

    I definatley do not believe these searches are random ! Otherwise they wouldn’t pick on us all the time , i think there must be a register with names on , sadly , us that get stopped are on this register i’m guessing ? It just makes leaving our own country a bitter pill to swallow then as we leave our holiday destination the last memory of the country , its just the people walking past with a smirk that aren’t checked , when I was leaving Spain and the officer wanted to open my case and look , she wanted to do it in full view of everyone , I said in my poor Spanish “not here for everyone to see -over there” i wasn’t going to make it easy for her !

    • reasek says:

      Yeah, I’ve asked them to be more gentle with my things many times, saying things like “You can search everything you want, but I’d appreciate if you treated my items with a little bit of respect. Book bindings crack, and I’d like to keep my books in 1 piece, thank you”

  • gary whittaker says:

    They really don’t care about property in the slightest or how they are making the traveller feel …do they ever say thank you or sorry ? They (security) never have with me , the last time i was in Spain back in jan i visited a beautiful church and purchased a huge virgin Mary statue , when the officer (after me demanding to to have my case searched in private) opened my case and saw it …she crossed herself ! I think she was shocked to see a youngish guy with such a thing and Mary looking up at her ! Lol ! Rasek and others on here , i think the only words of comfort i can give is that you know , i know and others know we have done nothing wrong and ultimately the people that are wrong are the officers , they as people and how they affect us in our daily lives is insignificanr

  • Sheila says:

    Ok…Lilly white skin female. Stopped and searched even when I fly just to another state for the past ten years. I would love to know why. I don’t believe it’s random at all

    • reasek says:

      It is absolutely not random, I’m sure it of! Maybe you fly too often? Or did you live abroad? After I lived in Argentina for 2 years, I started getting searched routinely and getting a lot of questions about my passport stamps. I’ve also heard that sometimes when you have the same name/similar name to someone with a criminal record you end up getting searched just in case.

  • Tee says:

    Well I’m a white, Australian, 20 something female lawyer with no interesting ethnic background, and no tattoos or interesting piercings or colourful hair. Entirely vanilla, boring even. But business or pleasure, I am swabbed at every airport and x-rayed on every international flight. I am even done when travelling with my partner who has tattoos from neck to ankle. Neither of us have any criminal records or affiliation with any dodgy groups, yet 99% of the time I get the full song and dance. So I’m really not sure what criteria they apply!

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