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How Ahmed Mohamed’s homemade clock reminds us of America’s institutionalized racism

This week we learned that the difference between a threat and innovation at a school in Texas, is stereotyping.

After a tumultuous couple days, Ahmed Mohamed, the young innovator, has been withdrawn from his school. After bringing a homemade clock to class and subsequently being arrested for it, the teenager has been experiencing emotional stress. His parents have decided to pull out the entire family from their local district.  Apparently, Ahmed has received invitations from other schools to be a student but needs some time to recover before any decisions are made.

All this began when Ahmed brought a clock of his own fashioning to school – to show off to his teachers and peers. What did the ninth grader expect? Probably some high-fives and approving smiles, not a three-day suspension and being accused of having invented a bomb.

For the most part, the internet and general public have rallied behind Ahmed and recognize this technological feat at such a young age. But, it seems there always has to be conspiracy theorists. Oh, and Bill Maher, who acknowledges the racism inherent in the arrest – and agrees with it. To him (and those who support the school), if one young Muslim has set off a bomb somewhere, it must mean all young Muslims feel the same. This group of people always seems to forget that young white men are the people most likely to act violently in an academic setting in America.

Race has been, and continues to be, a crucial factor in childhood educational success in America. It is estimated that black students, for example, are twice as likely to receive disciplinary action than white students for doing the same thing. Ahmed was suspended for three days for being a good student – even more a good kid. He is now going without a formal education for the time being because it has done so much damage to him and his family already.

After all charges had been dropped by the authorities, there were also talks of lifting the school suspension, however Ahmed has since made the decision to be homeschooled instead. There has also been news of Ahmed being allowed to pick up his invention from the police, however legitimacy of this claim is shaky as only gossip sites and tabloid newspapers seem to be reporting on the theory.

Luckily several celebrities, politicians, and entrepreneurs have rallied around Ahmed; recognizing his talent and even inviting him to their places of work. President Obama, Hilary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg, and many more have reached out to Ahmed and planned for a visit.

AhmedAhmed even appeared on Larry Wilmore‘s Nightly Show, where he demonstrated how his clock worked, and how he went about making it.

Ahmed Mohamed is one example of an institutional problem America is still facing. How do we reconcile race and education. We need to make learning and success an option and feasible for every child, teen, and adult.

Feel like getting social about this? Use #IstandwithAhmed or check out the awesome support that the world has for the fourteen-year-old tech wizard.


[images via x x, and Comedy Central]

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Written by Sarah Foot

Sarah Foot is a native Vancouverite who, conveniently, loves the smell of rain. A recent graduate from Simon Fraser University, she is passionate about the topics of feminism, agency and sexuality. When she isn’t writing up a sweet-smelling storm, you can catch Sarah dancing, petting dogs or on her blog Ink and Jam. You can also follow her day-to-day ponderings on twitter @sarahfoot.

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