Clocks, Bombs, and Racism

Clocks, Bombs, and Racism

Staff Photo Dane La Born
Ahmed Mohamed and I have the same NASA shirt and I had that cool wall clock, and with so many pictures of clocks being posted I thought it’d be apropos.

Last week, as I’m sure many of you are aware, a 14-year-old boy in Texas was arrested on suspicion of making a bomb and bringing it to school. His name was Ahmed Mohammed. Ahmed has a passion for science and learning, and he built a clock out of circuit boards, a digital display, and wires inside an old pencil box. He brought it to school to show his engineering teacher.

Here’s where we get into the suspicious parts of this story. Apparently, upon seeing the clock Ahmed had created, his engineering teacher praised him, but told him he probably shouldn’t show it to any other teachers. Instead of telling Ahmed to keep it in his classroom, where it would be safe and away from ignorant teachers who don’t know what a homemade clock looks like, he told Ahmed to keep it in his bag. Later in the day, Ahmed’s English teacher heard the alarm go off and asked him to show her what made the noise. He showed her and told her what it was, to which she responded “Well, it looks like a bomb.”

“It’s not. It’s a clock. I made it.” was Ahmed’s response.

This is when the proverbial shit really hits the fan, and where people on the internet can’t seem to agree on something very basic. The school called the police and the police came and handcuffed Ahmed and questioned him about the “suspicious device” that Ahmed had already told them was a clock. Why they didn’t call the engineering teacher to confirm this is beyond me. The real rub though, and the thing that 100% tells me this is an issue of racism and xenophobia, specifically Islamophobia, is this; there was no evacuation. They didn’t get the kids out of school. They kept the “bomb” and “bomb-maker” both in the office until the police arrived. Never once was the school evacuated, which is what is done in the event of a damned bomb threat, much less a teacher actively thinking there was an explosive device in the classroom. So spare me the stories of other students who’ve gotten in trouble and gotten suspended for bringing in things like this. Spare me the Bill Mahr diatribe of the school being in the right. There is zero room for justification here. There would be had they evacuated the school. Had they reacted to this supposed “bomb” the way every school in the country reacts to the mere mention of the word bomb, I wouldn’t be so hung up on this being true blue racism. They didn’t though, because it was never about there being a bomb.

I talked a lot about the growing xenophobia in our country last week following the massive amounts I saw of it on 9/11. It only got worse from there. Ahmed’s family, instead of laying down and taking this injustice (as many other students who had this happen to them did) decided to take action, and a friend of his sister’s posted the photo of him wearing his NASA shirt with his hands behind his back in cuffs and coupled it with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed. That picture was shared thousands of times, and he and his family set up a twitter account, @IStandWithAhmed, so that he could reach out. Reach out he definitely did.

Shortly after the story started trending nationally, support from all over the tech and political world started pouring in. Mark Zuckerberg invited Ahmed to Facebook. NASA’s space camp invited him to learn with them. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both tweeted their support of him, and perhaps most surprising, and definitely the most polarizing, President Barack Obama invited him to the White House. Well, he invited Ahmed to participate in the White House science fair, and coupled his support with a message about nurturing young minds and encouraging learning in our students. The internet responded with token logic and reason, asking “Why doesn’t Obama ever invite the children of slain police officer’s to the white house” and other things like that. A 13-year-old conservative African-American student ripped into Obama the day after, asking him where his priorities lay, why he’s encouraging “Domestic terrorists like Black Lives Matter” and why he’s “inviting terrorists to the white house” in regards to Ahmed.

This makes me want to scream. How can people possibly be so unbelievably goddamned stupid!? Not even taking into account the conservative hero that is Reagan, as well as many other American presidents, funding the actions of militants that would later become known by names like ‘Al-Qaeda’ and ‘ISIL/ISIS’, then turning around and accusing our current president of encouraging domestic terrorism by acknowledging that we have problems in this country with things like racial based violence from the people sworn to protect us, and fostering learning in a child who was unjustly and falsely accused of building a terror weapon? When and how did we get to this point?

There’s got to be a change. There’s going to come a day soon where these hate-filled people will have a reckoning, and I hope and pray they are able to make themselves a bit smarter first, and see that a different skin color, a different religion, doesn’t automatically make someone the enemy. Racism, xenophobia, this special snowflake disorder that American’s have, where our way is the only way (even though “our way” is based on a 1950s political climate that doesn’t apply today, and was totally un-American and unconstitutional when it did apply) is ridiculous, asinine, and wrong. We’ve got to stop, we’ve got to get better. We need to become the embodiment of the ideals set forth in that document that was written some 200-plus years ago.

We live in a country that abides by some very simple rules set forth in that aforementioned document. That all men are created equal. That we are all entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere in there does it say *except for these people, and considering how many of our founding fathers were early abolitionists, they knew their own hypocrisy and gave us a way to fix things when the time came, which is why we can amend and make changes to that document. So it’s time to amend this stupid line of thinking. It’s time to pick up and move on, and get back to being the country we need to be. It all starts with the individual. One person is kind and begets kindness from another, and before you know it, we’re all hippily-dippily holding hands and singing Kumbaya, which is infinitely better than indiscriminately killing one another because one person’s Sky Daddy can beat up another, or one person’s skin color makes them God’s chosen people.

Categories: Commentary