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Truthdigger of the Week: Shoshana Hebshi

Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. You can see past winners here, and make your own nomination for our next awardee here.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, FBI and Homeland Security officials took extra security measures because, as one official told the Associated Press, “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.” Unfortunately for nonwhite Americans who chose to travel that day, that meant being subjected to blatant racial profiling. Shoshana Hebshi, our Truthdigger of the Week, was one such victim, but she had the presence of mind to remember the details and later the courage to blog about her experience, bringing to light the truth about where America stands 10 years after the Twin Towers fell.

Hebshi, a self-described half-Arab, half-Jewish mother from the Midwest, was forcefully detained, interrogated and even strip-searched when her Frontier Airlines flight from Denver landed in Detroit, all because a nervous passenger reported that she and her two Indian seatmates had spent a suspiciously long time in a restroom. Hebshi said it did not dawn on her why she was being treated like a criminal until hours into the process when her interrogators told her, “… Judging from our line of questioning, you could probably guess.”

Her story quickly gained momentum across the Internet, sparking outrage from veteran law enforcement officials, constitutional lawyers and now the American Civil Liberties Union. The Guardian quoted a spokesperson for Hebshi from the ACLU, who said, “Law enforcement actions and decisions must be reasonable and must be credible, not based on stereotypes and appearance. We can all agree the arrest, the strip search and detention of an innocent mother of two was not reasonable or necessary.”

Hebshi might easily have been too humiliated or intimidated to share her story, but instead she chose to stand up and speak up in the face of injustice.

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Honorable Mention

On Aug. 30, Ry Cooder released an album of modern-day protest songs called “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down.” The album is a commentary on current economic times and the ethics behind what got us here. One of the more popular tracks from the album, “No Banker Left Behind,” Cooder said, originated with a line from a column by our own Robert Scheer. Some of the songs are old-timey and draw from Depression-era tunes. “I’m going to hit these stories as vividly as I can,” Cooder says, “and try to get the point across in four minutes.”

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Listen to “No Banker Left Behind” below.

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