Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight


Now we can’t do math on a plane, it looks too much like Arabic:


This is the state of our educational system that math symbols look very foreign and terrifying.


I never do math on planes: it’s too dangerous. An Ivy League professor should know better.


:mad: Really?! This is what you take from this story? “Oh look, here’s another opportunity to bash the school system again.”

As a public school teacher, I cringe whenever any of my little charges express a desire to be a teacher when they grow up. I would never wish the kind of bashing we experience on anyone.

As a Catholic, I offer it up and carry on offering my life’s time, talent, and treasure for the awesome and fearful task of educating God’s little ones.

You actually did an excellent job, however, of demonstrating the point of this story – profiling. You quickly use this story as evidence to defend a calumnious statement about those who devote their life’s work to the field of education. Way to profile!


Great. Now I have to try to get my heart back in order to go to mass.

Pooh. :bighanky:

Fine. I’ll pray for you at mass…


Especially when doing partial differential equations. The div, grad and curl symbols look very suspicious.



And, I never drink and derive.:smiley:


Take heart.


For every detractor there are students or former students like me who acknowledge the influence good teachers have had in their life.


If differential equations can get you in trouble, calculus would be even worse.


Insert your own *Weapons Of Math Instruction *joke here.



Well I think its common knowledge people are initially frightened of things they dont understand…History has proven this time and time again.


My understanding is another customer became suspicious of this passenger and told the flight attendant of her suspicions. The FA notified the Captain who notified the ground security coordinator, in accordance with airline procedures. The GSC talked to both of the customers, determined that the economist was no threat and he returned to his seat.

What’s the problem? That’s how it’s supposed to work. If you “see something, say something” even if you turn out to be completely mistaken.

I work for an airline. It happens all the time. Someone sees something and misunderstands what they see. The “suspicious” customer goes out on the jetway and talks to the GSC. The misunderstanding is cleared up. The flight then proceeds as normal. Why did this incident make the news when the other daily occurrences don’t? Why is everyone so certain this is an ethnic profile? Get on a plane. Half the passengers and crew aren’t white. Most of the people I’ve had reported to me are not of any specific noticeable non-white ethnicity. And believe me, if someone isn’t pale, blond and blue-eyed, there are hours and hours of paperwork to do over the course of weeks to justify even speaking to them. Nobody wants to deal with that on their days off.

In my experience, the guy who is changing his cell phone battery and mistaken for a terrorist gets to continue on with his travel plans. The guy dressed in half wetsuit/half business suit blessing everyone as they pass by him and mumbling to himself takes a later flight when his meds start working.


Perhaps she was ticked off because he didn’t want to make small talk and - as the article says - “rebuffed” her. . :shrug:


That would be answering questions down at security then as I never do small talk with strangers and it is considered distinctly odd to do it in some cultures. If you started up ‘small talk’ conversations in Russia where I’ve lived on a train journey it is likely the passengers would think you were crazed as people just don’t do it there and they find smiling in public or in shops when selling goods to indicate possible signs that you are ‘cracked in the head’. Cultural differences come into play in these things also. I have no wish to do small talk with passengers next to me on an airplane and would respond just like the guy in this article.


I don’t do small talk either.


Don’t let it get to you. :slight_smile:

The original article was clearly about racial profiling; the OP’s editorializing isn’t part of it. :stuck_out_tongue:

I personally come from a family of teachers (I’m the black sheep, I ended up doing some third-rate job in a hospital :D) so I have immense respect for what they do.

(But I fully concur with the dangers of mathematics on planes. I once was reading a book on mathematics by Roger Penrose, and you won’t believe the dirty looks I got. :))


No job in a hospital is third-rate.


Sorry, I was being facetious. :smiley: I was just alluding to the fact that my mother, brother and father all have PhDs and I don’t. :stuck_out_tongue:


The article noted that a quick Google search of the suspect passenger would have quickly revealed his identity. Yet the flight was delayed for two hours.


What is suspicious about sitting in your seat writing something?

Why is everyone so certain this is an ethnic profile?

Imagine this conversation.

“I’m suspicious of the blonde, blue-eyed guy next to me.”


“He wasn’t talkative, and he was writing something down.”

“What was he writing?”

“I don’t know, looked like it might be Swedish or Norwegian.”

“Other than writing down and not wanting to talk to you, did he do anything else suspicious?”

“No. I want a different flight though. I don’t feel safe.”

They would have thought she was nuts. No way anyone suspects this guy of being a terrorist unless he was dark and it looked like he was writing in Arabic.


I was definitely not blaming teachers and surely anyone with a high education should be able recognize math symbols or may be that is asking too much? (It was not exactly profiling - the man was Italian)


Well, the math symbols were differential equation symbols, so there would be things like Leibniz notation and stuff like that that wouldn’t be covered in your typical high school math class.

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