Trouble at the Border


Obviously as time has gone on over the past few centuries the amount of racism that occurs in the world, and in particular the United States, has drastically decreased, but it is still very prevalent in today’s world. I have grown up as a white male, in a predominantly white community. I attended a predominately white private high school in the suburbs of Boston, and I am now approaching the last semester at a predominately white university. I have experienced racism towards African Americans to a strong degree, as my town’s flag is a Confederate degree, which often led to inner city African American students to request different town assignments in the Massachusetts-run METCO program. And, I have experienced relatively lighthearted racism, as the African Americans on my high school soccer team referred to themselves as “the minorities” throughout the season.

Due to the fact that I am white, and have been surrounded by predominately white communities my entire life, I cannot say I have been the victim of much racism. One particular scenario that sticks out in my mind regarding racism occurred when I was 12 years old in Calgary, Canada. My Dad, my friend, my friend’s dad and I flew from Boston to Calgary to later drive to Banff, Canada for a weeklong ski trip. Upon arrival to the customs desk in Calgary, my dad and I were immediately taken into a back interrogation room after our friends had went through customs flawlessly. My dad is 100% Caucasian, but has fairly dark skin, and happened to not have shaved in a few days at this time. The customs officers talk to my dad privately first, and then take me into the room alone directly after. Being an innocent 12 year old excited to ski for the next week, I had literally no idea what was going on. I was asked if my mother new that my dad was taking me to Canada. I responded with yes, because of course she knew I was going to Canada with my dad. They then asked me to call my mother and confirm this fact. Being the tired wise ass that I was, I said I would not I call my mother, it was 3am in Boston time, and I don’t want to wake her. After much contemplation between the group of customs officers, they notified my father and I that we were fine to leave, but in the future my father must have a written note of approval from his spouse that he was taking me out of the country. Clueless of this rule, my father said he would in the future, and embarked on our 2-hour drive to Banff with our friends.

My parents and I obviously discussed the situation upon our arrival back the states, but considering my age, I didn’t fully understand the situation. Years later, we revisited the situation, and I had a better idea of what happened. In this time period, a fairly soon after the 9/11 attacks, there was a lot of stereotyping going on regarding people of Middle Eastern background. My father, despite being white, was assumed to Middle Eastern, and was assumed to be kidnapping from the U.S to Canada. Despite being 10 years ago at this point, I feel like this situation proves that racism and stereotyping has not been eliminated in today’s world.

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4 responses to “Trouble at the Border

  1. This is a very interesting story and (maybe you left it out) I’m surprised your father was as cooperative as he was. It is really astounding to me that they could question him as a kidnapper without any cause. Maybe if you matched the profile of a recently reported kidnapped child it would have been reasonable or if your passports didn’t match. Given the lack of suspicious circumstances though, it seems like the actions of the customs officers were unnecessary.

  2. It’s really unfortunate when situations like this do happen. My brother actually experience a very similar thing. My family and I lived in England for two years when my brother and I were in high school. The London Underground bombings had just happened, my brother was traveling with some friends into mainland Europe and he had recently fully grown out his beard. He was stopped and interrogated just like your dad was because of being stereotyped. So it’s not only an issue in the United States as you can see.

  3. I was thinking the exact same thing as Laura and I can’t believe they would question your father as a kidnapper for no reason other than his appearance. But given the time period, since it was fairly soon after the 9/11 attacks, I feel like the customs officers probably interrogated all people if they had the slightest thought that they could be from the Middle East. It is horrble that such stereotyping goes on still, and unfortunuately I think we won’t see an end to it for a long time to come.

  4. I can’t believe that they said your Dad would have to have a written note from his spouse every time he was bringing you out of the country. It seems completely absurd that they would make him do that when he clearly did nothing wrong, just decided not to shave for a while. I witnessed a similar situation after 9/11 when I was in an airport and a man was being questioned just because he was wearing a turban. Clearly the racism and stereotyping issues are still prevalent, even today.

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