A Jewish undergraduate at the University of North Carolina has been booted from the student newspaper after writing a column in defense of racial profiling.
“I want all Arabs to be stripped naked and cavity-searched if they get within 100 yards of an airport,” 20-year-old junior Jillian Bandes wrote in a column that appeared in the September 13 edition of The Daily Tar Heel. She added, “If 19 blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian Jews had plowed into the World Trade Center with two jumbo jets, I would demand to be interrogated every time I browsed Cheapflights.com.”
University senior Chris Coletta, the newspaper’s editor, initially defended the column as a legitimate expression of the author’s opinion. But late last week he dismissed Bandes. After the firing, Coletta sent a letter to the media blog Romenesko. In it he alleged that Bandes had misrepresented the views of three Arab Americans, whom she quoted as agreeing with her views on racial profiling.
The disturbance has become a subject of significant media interest, with both Coletta and Bandes drawing criticism.
In an interview with the Forward, Bandes said that she developed her ideas about racial profiling while flying to Israel on El Al Airlines this past summer to participate in a program on terrorism. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies ran the program.
The airline security for her flight “made no qualms about racially profiling,” Bandes said. “The one Arab American student on the trip was greatly inconvenienced: They took all his electronic items…At the end he said, ‘You know, I understand.’”
Bandes is the daughter of a Catholic woman and a Jewish man. Raised in Palm Harbor, Fla., she grew up attending Temple Ahavat Shalom, a Reform congregation. Bandes said that on most social issues she is very “far left.” But she added that she is “conservative” on American and Israeli security issues, having been particularly influenced by the “very right-leaning” members of her father’s family.
Next month, at her childhood congregation, Bandes is scheduled to deliver a Friday night lecture about the trip to Israel that planted the seeds of the current controversy.
The rabbi at the NCHillel, Sharon Mars, said that the Jewish community on campus “considered this an isolated opinion of an individual student.”
“We have good relations with our Muslim friends on campus,” the rabbi said, adding, “They were concerned at first but then immediately reassured by the fact that we have a long history with them.”
Among those who were critical of Bandes’s column by was Ariel Beery, a Columbia University graduate who led the recent effort on his former campus to protest alleged incidents of Arab professors intimidating pro-Israel students. Beery told the Forward that Bandes “wrote a terrible column, and the Arab students and members of the community at large are right to be hurt by it.” Beery added that Bandes’s “ideas should be discussed as all shocking ideas should,” but he said the paper has “no obligation to hold someone who abuses their power” and that it “should have edited her thoroughly.”
Despite her views on the searching of Arab travelers, Bandes expressed strong disagreement with the racial profiling of African-Americans and Hispanics that has typified some law enforcement efforts.
“I can’t say I agree with ‘driving while black,’” she said, using the colloquialism for traffic stops that are the result of racial profiling. “Terrorists have a profile… law enforcement on a city level is vastly different from security in an airport.”
Bandes acknowledged that her “choice of words in the article” was “disrespectful.” She said that if she had it to do over again, she would have stated her argument differently. Still, Bandes maintained that she had “every right as a journalist” to use the wording that she did in her column.
Bandes said that she is unsure what will become of her journalism career. At this point, the junior added, she prefers a career in law or in intelligence.