Thursday, September 19, 2013

"The Dark Vein of Intolerance": America's Majority-Minority Future & the Face of Insider Threats

Miss USA 2013, is Nina Davuluri, Miss. New York, a South Asian-American woman. So what does Miss. America have to do with National Security? 
The public reaction to a Brown-Skinned, hyphenated-American being the face of Miss. America is an example of the social cleavage that exists between American interests and the perceptions of American identity. The consequence of this cleavage results in micro-aggressive racist policy making when it comes to protecting national interests in the intelligence community. The recent training program developed by the Defense Information Systems Agency on identifying "Insider Threats" is an example of how race, gender, national origin, ethnicity, economic status and sexuality are all factors of training prejudice rather than awareness or appreciation for the identities that make up the face of America. One should not be surprised to hear this. Just 50 years ago Black and White College aged students that participated in the Freedom Rides were on the FBI watchlist for being suspicious and challenging the law of the land of separate but equal. The rage, anger, racist, xenophobic remarks by prominent and everyday Americans on social media outlets toward Miss. America 2013 is evidence of how when people think of Miss. America, a South-Asian American woman’s face is not the image that first, if ever, that comes to mind. A similar racist lashing was dealt in 2010 when Miss. America was of Lebanese ethnic-origin and social media/news outlets were quick to link her with Hezbollah. Novelist Toni Morrison, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient states: “In this country American means White. Everyone else has to hyphenate.”  

Domestic policies project on how intelligence and foreign policy initiatives are carried out, this is not a new concept. Domestic policies on how Americans in positions of power, elected or appointed, view other Americans, in relation to this blog post, Americans of color, is best described in the words of former Secretary of State and Joint Chief of Staff, Colin Powell, the view comes from "A Dark Vein of Intolerance". Although Powell speaks of this vein in reference to a political party, the larger message is that it is a dark vein that runs in our country's view towards minorities. Minorities as being lazy, not legitimate, i.e. the birther movement. This dark vein runs from political party campaigns and into national security training. 

One of the insider threat training slides developed by DISA is featured below:

Hema, is a South-Asian American who visits family in India, speaks openly of unhappiness with US Foreign Policy and had her car repossessed while at work. So she cares about her loved-ones, takes pride in using her first amendment rights and has a bad financial situation and therefore she is a "High-Risk" threat to National Security according to this training slide. In the next fifty years, the United States will be a majority-minority country. In the year 2012 more biracial and minority children were born in the US than white children. Americans and their understanding of the American identity needs a dialogue on diversity. A dialogue that is not afraid to look back at a history of marginalizing Americans as second-class citizens or subjects of suspicion based on the facets of their identity: Alien Sedition Act, Japanese Internment, Excluding religious minorities from the Armed Service because of their respective articles of faith, jailing dissidents like Congressman John Lewis, a student freedom-rider who was unhappy with segregationist policies and laws.

The term national interests is used sloppily in the media by speakers on popular news channels, poorly defined and the underlying biases left without much examination or scrutiny. However, US government agencies should not sloppily define insider threats that threaten national security interests to protect intelligence. This is training in prejudice, not national security and it is damaging for our majority-minority future. Americans of all backgrounds are paying attention. Instead of fostering appreciation and understanding of differences in all American minority ethnic/racial/sexual orientation identities, this training fosters paranoia and suspicion and feeds into incorrigible pessimistic tendencies. Tendencies that are not even proven to be effective. Freedom and liberty for all, is a national interest, an interest highlighted in our pledge of allegiance and thus the freedoms to be different and ethnic and of immigrant background should not infringe on your liberty to be treated equally in the workplace especially in the federal government. One's identity should not be the basis of suspicion, or any unjust, unproven prejudice and is another form of racial profiling.

Meanwhile the Police Commissioner of the NYPD just issued a memorandum clarifying that Indian-American and American-Indian are two different respective identities. In an effort to get the NYPD to correctly collect demographic data on incidents. In a country where one of the most prominent police agencies, NYPD, cannot distinguish between an Indian-American and American-Indian, it should be an indicator for federal defense agencies to refrain from profiling and rather stress on educating its workforce on the minority, or in this case, women of color in the intelligence community.

This training dismisses the leadership and voice of Americans who have voted for South-Asian American women in politics, Women that may look like and be like “Hema”. 

Harmeet Dhillon- San Francisco Republican Party Chairwoman

Governor Nikki Randhawa Haley South Carolina 

Tulsi Gabbard Congresswoman Haiwaii 

It dismisses that America is a country made of immigrants and a country with a changing face. It dismisses an outlook of domestic stability and peace where diverse groups of people from different national origins and ethnic backgrounds live in peace while actively participating in the world's oldest constitutional democracy. It dismisses America's own post-Colonial legacy and legacy of migration: forced or willing. We need a dialogue on how we can further expand equality of opportunity and rid of barriers to entry for marginalized Americans instead of treating fellow Americans as “insider-threats” simply because of their identity, especially a hyphenated-identity. This train of thought is elementary and unsophisticated and no different than the people on social media who called this year’s Miss. America,: “Miss. 9/11” and asked “When will a real American ever win this pageant again?” This technique and training program under the current administration, undermines all the struggles for social equality and justice to an oversimplified and poor solution to serious concerns: protecting our nations most vital secrets and intelligence.

Rather than training on unproven notions of identifying an "insider threat" by portraying women of color as the "insider threat", we need better scientific consensus and investigation when it comes to profiling who is an insider threat, and not on the basis of their disagreement with their own country's policies combined with their racial or immigrant background. 

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