Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm too upset to think of a clever title

     I wanted to begin this with something profound and clever, something intelligent and well-spoken that could make people see what's wrong with the world, but I can't. I have too many thoughts and emotions running wild in my head (more so than usual) so I'm just going to share those.
     Let me just start by saying that racism, discrimination, racial profiling, and all those other bad unfair and devastating things are NOT over. Every time I hear someone say something along the lines of, "shouldn't we be over this by now?" I just cringe.
     My focus this morning is Ahmed Mohamed, a 14 year old boy from Irving, Texas. From what I've read, Ahmed is an intelligent, creative boy who likes to tinker with things. He was in the robotics club in middle school.
    Ahmed made a home-made clock and brought it to school to show his teachers. The first teacher he showed it to, the engineering teacher, told him not to show it to any other teachers. Another teacher told him it looked like a bomb, even though Ahmed said it was a clock and that to him it looked like a clock.
     Guess what happened?
     Ahmed isn't white, so the teachers freaked out and called the police. Ahmed, who probably only wanted to make his teachers proud and find a niche for himself in high school was put through a humiliating ordeal that is not yet over. He was questioned in the principal's office by five police officers. Five! For one kid. He was threatened with expulsion, and suspended from school.
     Yeah, that's really great. Here's a kid who is smart and obviously motivated, so what do they do? They suspend him from school. What a great way to to cultivate this boy's talent and encourage him to do well in school.  (In case you didn't catch it, that was sarcasm.)
     The police admit that Ahmed never said it was anything other than a clock, but they still consider charging him with making a hoax bomb.
     Okay, let's use logic for just a second.
     Crazy idea, right?
     Let's just say that Ahmed did in fact intend his clock to be a hoax bomb. (I want it to be clear that this was not his intention, nor do I think it was. I'm just making a point.) Would he have gone around showing it to all his teachers saying "look at this clock I made!" No! He would've hidden it somewhere for people to find and freak out. But he didn't. Because he wasn't trying to scare anyone or play a prank. He was showing off his passion and talent and has been punished for it.
     Words cannot say how sad this is.
      Talent and passion should never ever be punished.
     One of the many things about this that devastates me is that Ahmed is young and impressionable. Things like this could easily cause someone to stop following their dreams and passions. Ahmed was punished for his creativity. That is absolutely horrible and unacceptable. In this day and age with how spotty education is in the U.S., we need to be encouraging students, especially students of color, not jumping to conclusions and punishing them.
     I hope that Ahmed can stay strong through this and does not give up his hobbies, dreams, and passions.

     When I read the part of the article that said he was questioned in the principal's office by five police officers I was reminded of my own Freshman year of high school. Let me just state for the record that when I was fourteen, I was an idiot. Plain and simple.
     I went through a brief phase where I found fire fascinating.
     Why?
     Because I was an idiot. Luckily this phase didn't last long and no permanent damage was caused.
      One day at school during lunch, a friend and I were messing around. We were in the lunchroom, and I decided to light a tootsie roll wrapper on fire. Why? Because I was an idiot. Did I mention that yet? Well, as it turns out, plastic burns fast. I freaked out, dropped the burning wrapper on the floor where it started to burn the carpet, and then stood there like the idiot I was and screamed. A kitchen worker came out and stamped out the fire.
     Nothing happened to me that day.
     The following day I was called to the principal's office. I was questioned with my mom, I think two vice principals, and one police officer.
     One.
     Just one.
     Though they were pretty harsh in their questioning, I think they knew all along that I hadn't meant to hurt anyone. I was just stupid. I did not get led through the school in handcuffs. At no point during this incident was I placed in handcuffs.
     Why was there only one cop and not five?
     Because I'm white.
     Why was I not led away in handcuffs?
     Because I'm white.
     My point in sharing my experience is to point out that I was treated with much more respect than Ahmed, and I'm the one who actually did something wrong. Ahmed did nothing wrong.
     I've only just begun to understand what white privilege truly means. I once firmly believed that I am not privileged. This was ignorance on my part. Plain and simple. Now I know that I am privileged. If I were black or another minority, my situation would've been handled quite differently.

     Another sad thing about this is that even if the teachers were concerned, they could've handled the situation so much better. They could've had the engineering teacher take a close look at the clock. If they wanted to question Ahmed, they could've done it without getting the police involved. And, hey, here's a crazy thought: they could have complimented him for his talent and creativity!
     Ahmed and his family have created a Twitter account @IStandWithAhmed. Ahmed tweets "Thank you for your support! I really didn't think people would care about a muslim boy."
     That right there is what's wrong with this country. That statement, so short and simple, says so much. "I really didn't think people would care about a muslim boy." Think about that statement. Think about it hard. Don't let it out of your head. Think about how devastating it is that he felt that way. How devastating it is that a 14 year old feels that way. Think about how devastating it is that many muslims, blacks, and other minorities feel this exact same way.
     No one should have to feel this way.
     No one.

     If you would like to support Ahmed, follow him on Twitter @IStandWithAhmed.

     Here is a link to the article where I got most of my info about this story:
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/northwest-dallas-county/headlines/20150915-irving-ninth-grader-arrested-after-taking-homemade-clock-to-school.ece

     Comments and opinions are encouraged, but please keep them polite and respectful.