ADC Deeply Concerned by Memphis City Council
On August 5, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) wrote to the Memphis City Council regarding its treatment of an Iraqi delegation of civic leaders visiting Memphis, Tennessee, on a US State Department sponsored tour. The Iraqi delegation was brought to the US by the State Department to learn more about civil rights in the US. On August 3, the delegation was denied entry into Memphis City Hall.
ADC‘s letter, written by Director of Legal Policy Kareem Shora and Legal Associate Beth Henderson, expressed deep concern over this incident. The letter was sent to Joe Brown, Chairman of the Memphis City Council, and copies were sent to Willie W. Herenton; Memphis Mayor, and Paul G. Summers; Attorney General for the State of Tennessee.
EXERPTS OF ADC LETTER TO MEMPHIS CITY COUNCIL
The purpose of this letter is to express ADC’s strong concern regarding your alleged refusal to allow a State Department-sponsored delegation of Iraqi community leaders to visit Memphis City Hall on Tuesday, August 3rd. According to multiple credible reports, you would have “‘evacuate the building and in the bomb squads'” had the Iraqi group been permitted to enter. Nowhere in the media’s reports is it stated, however, that the Iraqi visitors posed a security threat. Instead, these reports have painted a picture of a highly regarded delegation of Iraqi community leaders who eagerly came to your city to learn about the United States’ Civil Rights Movement. If such reports are true, it is indeed ironic, but more significantly, potentially unlawful, that you, the City Council Chairman of Memphis, member of the NAACP, and recipient of the 1989 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, would close the doors of a public building solely based on the negative, blatant stereotypes that have been imposed upon the Iraqi people and Arabs in general. ADC understands the need for, and supports, greater security measures at vital public buildings, such as Memphis City Hall, when terrorism presents a very real and true threat. Shunning Iraqi visitors who came to the United States to build bridges between their country and ours, however, is not an effective way to fight the war on terror. Instead, such behavior only deepens a cultural divide that in no way makes us safer but rather reverses the gains we have made for human and civil rights. Law enforcement experts have made it clear that blanket profiling of individuals on such general bases as race, gender or national origin is an ineffective tool in the war against terrorism, just as we painfully learned of its ineffectiveness in the war on drugs.
ADC strongly urges you to issue a public explanation and/or apology if the alleged events are true. Additionally, we would like to know what the position is, if any, of the State of Tennessee and/or the City of Memphis regarding racial profiling. We look forward to hearing from you soon on this very important matter.