Ahmed Mohamed is a ninth-grader in Irving, Texas, who likes to tinker with electronics. On Monday, according to the Dallas Morning News, he built a simple electronic clock — a project he said took about 20 minutes — and strapped it inside a pencil case.
He showed the project to his engineering teacher, who praised the design but advised him not to show it to other teachers. Later, in Ahmed’s English class, the clock beeped while it was in his bag. When he showed the project to his teacher, she thought it looked like a bomb.
He insisted that the clock wasn’t a bomb, but the authorities at the school weren’t impressed:
The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.
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.”
Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.
“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”
“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”
According to the Dallas Morning News, the police arrested Ahmed and led him out of school in handcuffs. His school gave him a three-day suspension, and police are still investigating the incident.
Let’s count the ways this picture sets America back.
1) At a time when we’re trying to persuade the Muslim world that we are not their enemy, that our policies aren’t driven by anti-Muslim bias, we are racially profiling Muslim childrenas bomb-wielding terrorists. We are seemingly confirming the Muslim world’s worst fears about us — and giving ammunition to those who argue that America is deeply hostile to Muslims.
2) At a time when the World Economic Forum ranks America as 48th in the quality of its math and science education and the Organization for Economic Development ranks American students as 27th in math and 20th in science, we’re arresting a child who wears NASA shirts and builds machines in his spare time — and we’re doing it because the education professionals charged with guiding his development can’t tell the difference between a clock and a bomb.
3) At a time when we desperately need the world’s most talented immigrants to come to the US and build the industries of the future, we’re sending a message that immigrant families like Mohamed’s will be treated with suspicion and, at times, outright racism.
4) But the most heartbreaking part of the picture isn’t about national policy or international headlines. It’s the look on Mohamed’s face. America was supposed to be better than this. But on Monday, his school and his local police force — both of them public institutions that his family’s tax dollars support — failed him in a terrible, traumatic way.
Hopefully the public outcry will go part of the way to making it up to him. But no ninth-grader should ever be put through what he’s been put through. And we have no idea how many brown-skinned ninth-graders go through something like this that never goes viral, and so they just have to live with their humiliation and their hurt.
If you want to support Ahmed Mohamed post the #istandwithahmed hashtag on social media websites