Yesterday, this boy, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested for being interested in STEM. And I’ve had a night to think about it, and I still can’t wrap my head around how any part of this could be condoned.
Ahmed brought a clock he built himself to school, and showed it to a teacher – to show him an example of the depth of his interest in engineering. Instead, it set of a series of cascading failures that culminated with being led out of his school in handcuffs because everyone decided it could be a bomb – despite Ahmed’s repeated insistence that it was a clock.
Let me make something perfectly clear – in a town like Irving, where anti-Islam rhetoric is what gets you elected and makes you the darling of the Tea Party set, I have no doubt in my mind that institutional racism is not only condoned, but encouraged.
There, I said it. When your mayor dines out on bigotry, the overall message to anyone with any form of power is that it is OK to be afraid and to punish people for being different. Am I saying that everyone in Irving is a bigot and racist? No. Am I saying that such sentiment is encouraged by the powers that be? Yes.
Here’s the thing – the whole thing (read the story in the first link, seriously) reads like a group of people who mostly wanted to scare the crap out of a boy who had the temerity to be both brown and interested in learning.
“They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: ‘Yup. That’s who I thought it was.'”
But let’s also be clear: If everyone had really thought Ahmed’s clock was a bomb, the building would’ve been evacuated. A bomb squad would’ve been called to check it out. The fact that none of this happened leads me to two conclusions: Either the staff at MacArthur High and the Irving PD were quite cavalier with the lives of the students by just letting a bomb sit around the building for several hours, or everyone is currently engaging in some CYA about arresting and harassing a child for engineering while brown.
A whole lot of people need to be suspended because of this, and ain’t a one of them named Ahmed.
And Ahmed, a personal message to you: I hope you never, ever decide to hide your talents for fear this happens again. I hope you find an inclusive community that will help you nurture and foster your talents, and that you someday know that a lot more people are rooting for you than against you. It breaks my heart to think that you feel you must tuck away your ambitions because of the actions of the bigots that surround you.