Law of the Land: ABC’s Homeland Security Reality Show Isn’t Very Real

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Arnold Shapiro, the executive producer of ABC’s Homeland Security USA, states in a Washington Post article that, “It [the show] doesn’t have a political point of view.” The show aims to depict the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security as they do their jobs at the airport, the border, and/or the post office.

I didn’t believe Mr. Shapiro when I read the article, and I don’t believe him after watching the show. Terms like “terrorist” and “illegal” (in reference to immigrants) were tossed around all over the place: these terms are laden with racist and political overtones, especially in the border and airport security contexts of the program.

My confirmation that the show had a political bent was when a group of young men and one woman were stopped at the U.S.-Canada border. The border patrol stated that the driver was a Canadian citizen, but that his parents were Iranian citizens. It was stated as if it were proof of his alleged guilt: the officer mentioned his parents’ citizenships along with his possession of a fake ID and his untruthful answers to officers’ questions about his travel itinerary. Last time I checked, citizenship (one’s own or that of one’s family/acquaintances) wasn’t evidence of wrongdoing. But this show (and its politics) makes it automatic evidence of guilt and in doing so promotes xenophobia.

The other pieces of evidence? All passengers were brown. Now, they didn’t come out and say it, but I knows racial profiling when I sees it. In fact, every suspect featured in this television show was brown: Latino, Middle Eastern, South Asian… Even the innocent people. Mr. Shapiro must be unaware of the politics (and maaaaaajor racism) behind racial profiling.

I don’t have an issue with aiming to promote and appreciate the work that the men and women of the DHS have to do. I appreciate and understand that what they do to protect this country is difficult, dangerous, and sometimes horrific.

I have an issue with the fact that the other side isn’t presented or addressed: the fact that some officers commit human and civil rights violations when dealing with both citizens and non-citizens (immigrants, tourists, etc.); the trauma that innocent (and even the non-innocent) face during such violations; and the fact that racial profiling and xenophobia are terrible and unfair realities (if not policy) in DHS operations.

Last week’s “Flying While Muslim” (and brown) incident is proof that our security systems aren’t 100% efficient. No system is. But to attempt to lionize the DHS–through highlighting all the hard and thankless work that the men and women “on the ground” do–is misleading. And not-so-sneakily political.

(Photo Credit: ABC)

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Fatemeh is currently finishing her master's degree. She currently runs a website dedicated to critiquing how Muslim women are portrayed in both Eastern and Western media.