Should Simmer Down
September 21, 2001
Rodney Jay C. Salinas
Every person has their own unique way of grieving. Some people
cry hysterically. Others keep their emotions pent up inside
them. But a few individuals lose all of their judgment skills
and mental faculties altogether. Enter John Cooksey.
During a recent radio interview with stations in Louisiana,
Congressman John Cooksey, a self-professed conservative Republican
from Monroe, Louisiana, issued some of the most hateful and
bigoted comments to date in the wake of the attacks in New
York and Washington.
The interviewer, Jeff Palermo, asked Cooksey if Americans
should expect to lose some of their civil liberties in the
aftermath of the terrorist assaults. In response to Palermo's
questions, Cooksey uttered a barrage of disgraceful comments
about Arab Americans and other individuals who "look like
"If I see someone (who) comes in that's got a diaper on his
head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper on his head,
that guy needs to be pulled over," Cooksey said.
In his remarks, Cooksey essentially advocated seeking out
suspects based solely on their race. He calls it justice.
Others call it racial profiling.
"When you've got a group of people who are not American citizens,
who are of Arab descent and they were involved in killing
5,000 Americans, I think we can and should scrutinize people
that fit that profile until this war on terrorism is over,"
Little did Cooksey know that Attorney General John Ashcroft,
on that very same day of the interview, declared that the
United States will not engage in racial profiling in regards
to the terrorist attacks. "The investigation will be conducted
by the standards of the U.S. Constitution," Ashcroft stated.
Perhaps the Congressman just got caught up in the heat of
the moment. After all, this is a national tragedy and times
like these call for drastic measures, right? Not necessarily.
It looks like Cooksey needs a civics lesson in the basics
of the United States Constitution.
Not everyone who "looks" Arab is involved with the terrorist
attacks. In fact, millions of Americans of Arab heritage are
just that - AMERICANS. And because they are Americans, they
are entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone
else. At least, that's what they taught me in civics class.
If we followed Cooksey's logic, then every young, white male
would have been locked up by now. Because after Timothy McVeigh
and his infamous bombing in Oklahoma City, Cooksey's deranged
logic would have you believe that all young white males are
plotting to bomb federal buildings. Was that the case? Of
course not. After the bombing on that federal facility occurred
in 1995, did Americans want to scrutinize and summarily harass
every male who fit McVeigh's profile? Absolutely not.
When Palermo brought up this point to Cooksey during their
interview, Cooksey said, "If all terrorists looked like McVeigh,
all young white American males would be interrogated. But
the terrorists (last week) had a different look, a different
face and people fitting that profile should be interrogated."
Clearly, the Oklahoma City bombing pails in comparison to
the tragedies of recent memory. But because Arab Americans
are easier to point out, or as Cooksey says, "because they
wear diapers on their heads," they should be singled out.
Surely, Cooksey, a physician by training, could not be advocating
such a discriminatory practice. But indeed he is.
Now is the time to bring together Americans of all races,
religions and backgrounds. Cooksey's statements only evoke
resentment and promote divisiveness. Only one week after the
tragedies of September 11, there have already been hundreds
of incidents of biased crimes against Arab Americans and Muslim
Americans. Certainly, Cooksey may only be adding to the fuel
of hatred burning inside so many Americans.
Moreover, by targeting only those individuals who fit the
"profile," investigators might miss other terrorists and accomplices
who don't "look Arab." Even if most of the terrorists involved
turn out to be of Arab heritage, a plot of this magnitude
had to have involved many, many more individuals. And I bet
at least a small number of them are not Arab-looking. So the
goal of investigators should be to find any and all who were
involved in this crime against humanity no matter what they
Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of this whole incident
is that Cooksey does not regret any of his comments, according
to The Advocate, a newspaper based in Baton Rouge, La. What's
worse, is that Cooksey claims he has received no complaints
"Only the press. The press is trying to make something of
it," he said.
Here's another lesson in responsible governing, Mr. Congressman.
Just because your constituents don't complain, doesn't mean
that you are right. In fact, in this case, you're dead wrong.
And I only hope that the good people of your district are
ashamed of you and your remarks. As a fellow American, I know
Jay C. Salinas is President of the Rainmaker Political Group
LLC, publishers of PoliticalCircus.com,
an online source for political news and information for the
Asian Pacific American community.