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When Brown-Skinned and Brilliant Becomes a Threat in Disguise

THE STORY

Welcome to Irving, Texas, a town where even the brightest of young minds are apparently doomed to perish without merit when a display of brilliance is perceived as a threat. This only applies if you fit a certain targeted profile, the characteristics of which I am confident most Americans are well-acquainted with by now.

A high school freshman by the name of Ahmed Mohamed—yes, cue the groans because we already know where this story is going—was eager to show his engineering class teacher an invention that he created over the weekend. Resembling a clock of sorts, he told people that he had spent a mere twenty minutes piecing it together.

According to the Washington Times, he made it using a circuit board and a tiger hologram pencil case. Here’s what a combination of the latter might look like:

  

Most would regard the 14-year-old’s inventing capabilities as nothing short of fascinating; an emergence of creativity and innovation with the potential to go far. Mohamed brought the ensemble to class on Monday morning determined to wow teachers but to his dismay, the engineering teacher simply warned him against showing others.

These ominous words rang true later upon the discovery of the clock by another teacher who, alarmed, deemed it prudent to inform the authorities under the belief that the creation posed a threat. Shortly after, a team of five policemen crowded Mohamed, where he was unceremoniously handcuffed in front of his peers and taken away for interrogation.

Not bad for someone who had stepped foot in the school for the first time just a few weeks ago, huh?

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

What truly terrifies me is not only how commonplace this sort of response towards anything even remotely resembling Islam is, but how this attitude can detrimentally impact future endeavors. What does this course of action tell future inventors and engineers who may hail from a certain background?

For anyone who has even stepped foot into a high school robotics team room, the abundance of a variety of circuit boards and other unknown gadgets will become immediately apparent. Read: NOT A BOMB.

Freshman year of high school is a fleeting period of time where the possibilities to explore are endless, where creativity has yet to be stifled by the troubles of puberty, high school drama and the like. This incident may well leave Mohamed traumatized for the future, though judging by his response to the news outlets and on social media, the young man is cut from a tougher cloth than the rest.

PRECAUTION OR STANDARD PROCEDURE?

In regards to safety concerns: there is no doubt that upon notification of a real and true threat, proper action should be taken. However, if officials did indeed believe the invention to be a potential bomb, where was the alarm? Where was the school evacuation, the loudspeaker announcement? Where was the uproar?

When I was a sophomore in high school, my institution received a phone call regarding a bomb threat and immediately evacuated all students and staff to send them to nearby facilities. This took place while snow fell heavily, leaving students to evacuate without coats or proper attire, many still clad in shorts and t-shirts as they were forced to leave gym class. This is an appropriate reaction to harm.

In contrast, Irving MacArthur High simply isolated the student to be under severe questioning by officials and allowed classes to continue. The Dallas Morning News reports that when Mohamed was confronted by a police offer after being withdrawn from class, the first words the man uttered were, “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

Judging by the outpouring of support and cries of injustice on social media, most of the Internet is on Mohamed’s side, and rightly so. Prominent figures such as President Barack Obama, Democratic frontrunner Hilary Clinton and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have offered words of sincerity and solace to the bespectacled youth—his intellect recognized, it is no doubt that he is guaranteed a career before he gets to college.

A new hashtag, #IStandWithAhmad, is making its way around the web, with hundreds of thousands of people proudly creating a virtual backbone for Mohamed.

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