American Turban

Free “Hema”

Slide from a security training test used by the US Defense Department and other agencies showing the hypothetical Indian American woman named "Hema." (Source: The Huffington Post)

Slide from a security training test used by the US Defense Department and other agencies showing the hypothetical Indian American woman named “Hema.” (Source: The Huffington Post)

The Huffington Post’s Matt Sledge reports about a security training test created by an agency of the US Defense Department called the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which gives a profile of a hypothetical Indian American woman (named “Hema”) and, based on rather typical characteristics, instructs trainees to consider her a high security threat:

A security training test created by a Defense Department agency warns federal workers that they should consider the hypothetical Indian-American woman a “high threat” because she frequently visits family abroad, has money troubles and “speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy.”

It is a surprising list of innocuous traits that the agency is attributing as indicators to being a threat to the United States, particularly since South Asian and Indian women (and men) often travel to the Indian subcontinent frequently. Interestingly, the test is administered to not only federal workers in security agencies, but also to those who are not operating in the national security environment as well, thereby making such categorizations of Indian American women more ubiquitous among federal workers:

Notably, the CyberAwareness Challenge is given to a wide range of federal employees whose roles have far less to do with security threats than that of a National Security Agency contractor like [Edward] Snowden. The Department of Housing and Urban Development even requires its private business partners accessing a tenant rental assistance database to complete the training.

Fortunately, a group of South Asian women at The Aerogram have deconstructed the profiling of Hema, and have provided tongue-in-cheek measures for innocent women to avoid being considered a threat to the country:

1) Estrange oneself from family and friends, not to mention cultural connections and heritage by not going back to India regularly. (Besides, who needs grandparents or your aunties when you have Uncle Sam?)

2) Be politically apathetic or somehow always support U.S. foreign policy, even though that policy could vary wildly from administration to administration. But never mind that. U-S-A! U-S-A!

3) Be financially well off. (But don’t you dare spend any of that money on foreign travel or political causes, like other well-off people do. Always remember: brown-skinned individuals have to be extra careful.)

Simple, right?

Read more at The Huffington Post, and at The Aerogram.

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