Racism in WWII Propaganda Posters & Profiling in the War on Terror

The following were posters put out by the American government to dissuade WWII soldiers from participating in “risky behaviour” while on duty overseas. We’re supposed to assume that the targeted practice is with prostitutes, but I don’t see it.

All I can see is an association between being foreign with (as it used to be called) venereal diseases (VDs), or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). [Newsflash; Apparently the name has changed again –this time to STIs, sexually transmitted infections.]

Venereal Disease Covers the Earth, 1940

This item is in the public domain. Source: http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/ResourceMetadata/VCBBCD

High cheek bones, dark hair, thick lips, a beret, it’s like the image is associating STDs with not being a white American, that is, foreign women –ah, that tempting forbidden fruit.

She May Be... A Bag of Trouble

This item is in the public domain. Source: http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/ResourceMetadata/VCBBCB

The primary intention of the ads, keeping American soldiers away from foreign prostitutes, could have been done better, and thus racist “undertones” would have been avoided –which I’m sure didn’t help race relations with Hispanic Americans (before the contemporary illegal immigration problem from Mexico), as the above could pass off for aforementioned women –which, incidentally, says a lot for the conception white Americans have in respect to the “other” and themselves.

I guess this post wouldn’t be complete if I’d left it at that, just bringing up garbage from the past that no one wants to examine. (It seems my Facebook friends have lost interest in chatting with me after posting these photos.) So what’s the relevance today? Have we learned from these gross, inept, stereotypes? Are we any better off today? In this American “war” against terror, do we take the time to examine and avoid prejudices?

While going through American airports, family members and I have repeatedly been asked to go through the slowest lines. During this process of searching for “items of terror”, underwear and personal care products are seemingly paraded in full view of the public. That is, despite that luggage goes through scanner type machines, everything but everything is opened and inspected without the least regard to one’s privacy or care for one’s time spent packing. I don’t know why one spends so much time properly folding everything if rent-a-cops are simply going to forage through and leave a mess of everything. To confound ever futher, I’ve found these inspectors so inept that I’ve had to educate them by insisting my laptop not be ex-rayed, because the damage this technology poses to circuit boards.

I know the American news has gone on and on about the lack for security in airports the last few years, but –seriously– isn’t standing in multiple lines for multiple scanner machines and having one’s luggage repeatedly opened and flopped all about at any given airport –especially when one is just making a connection and hasn’t even left the boarding area– a bit much?? I’ve had to go through this seemingly unreasonable and idiotic exercise in futility and idiocy (or is that patience?).

Consider I’m not Muslim, Arab, nor of Middle Eastern descent. I don’t look exactly like the sort of people illustrated in the posters. For instance, I don’t have high cheek-bones, my eyes are brown but lighter than most brown eyed people, and my hair is curlier than those in the pics. Regardless, I’m certainly “other” enough to stand out and warrant special attention. I guess I shouldn’t wonder too much why some get fast tracked through airports, while I’ve been left feeling like I’m some unlucky winner to some lottery from hell I never entered. I can only imagine it must be worse for people that exactly fit the profile of the “Muslim other”.

I assume there’s a blanket policy, in as far as non-whites. I honestly question the logic of targeting swarthy/brown skinned people with brown eyes as potential Arab terrorists. Now if you were involved in the “war on terror”, here are no brainer questions to ask yourself. You know that you’re looking for extremist terrorist Muslims, to start off with.

Are all Muslims Arabs?

The answer to that is no.

And where I wanted to get to …

Are all Arabs brown?

Muslims could look like any race. There’s even –get this– light skinned Middle Eastern people, supposedly the ancestors to white Europeans –although I think this has been debunked, but the point is Islam is an international religion, and thus has taken in converts from all “races”. And Muslims (and Middle Eastern people as a whole for that matter) come in all colours. So, just as Muslims come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, it stands to reason the radical jihadist terrorist variety does as well. So what’s the use of profiling and targeting people based on colour if extremist Muslims come in all flavours? And more importantly, how’s profiling any different from discrimination based on the pseudoscience of physiognomy?

People get isolated for nothing more than having remotely similar physical features to the people depicted above, big brown eyes, dark hair, and anything darker than albino white skin. Profiling may not add up to much more than racism. One must ask a simmilar question as to the previous, “Considering Muslims come in all types, why waste time on profiling assuming terrorists are likely to take advantage of North American bigotry and deploy white skinned, blond, blue eyed operatives?

Perhaps you should be up front about American prejudices and, in a fashion reminiscent of McCarthyism, ask suspects …

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Muslim religion or your family of Arab decent?

And just to make sure you get to the truth, maybe ask them if they accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and saviour.


There’s two conclusions I’ve come to. First, it’s quite a humiliating experience to go through an American airport these days, if you’re not obviously white, and, second, ignorance still runs deep in America.

Maurice Cepeda

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