14 year-old builds clock, gets arrested

Sarah Kaplan, writing for The Washington Post:

Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed just wanted to get noticed by his teachers.

Instead, he got arrested.

In an incident that has raised allegations of racism and made a Texas school district the target of online outrage, the ninth grader was pulled out of school in handcuffs after a digital clock he built himself was mistaken for a bomb.

I'm sure /r/nottheonion will have a field day with this. (I wrote this sentence before even checking, but real-time follow-up: It's the top post.)

I wanted to go full on snark for this story, but I just can't bring myself to make light of this disturbing series of events.

Remember for just a moment what it was like to be 14. 14. Fourteen fucking years old. The daily insecurity you feel as your body is mutating itself in a hormone-induced metamorphosis. The constant self-consciousness. Never feeling like you're in the right place anywhere you go. That time in anyone's life is fucking miserable. God forbid you're a nerdy kid with a penchant for tinkering with electronics, building computers, playing video games. I write this as someone who experienced first-hand being the nerdy high school pariah. I felt all of this anxiety every day of my teenage years. And I'm white.

God forbid your skin is dark.

God forbid your name is Ahmed.

He was arrested because his teachers have seen too many movies and were afraid of a clock. The adults in his life who are supposed to make him feel safe and encourage his creative and intellectual pursuits turned on him. They had him removed from school in handcuffs.

Fourteen years old.

Remember once more being fourteen years old. Now imagine this as well:

“It made me feel like I wasn’t human,” he said in a video interview. “It made me feel like a criminal.”

Being creative while dark-skinned is a crime in this country. Everyone in Irving, Texas should be fucking ashamed of themselves, and they should carry that burden of shame with them everywhere they go.

There is a silver lining to all of this. The creative community is rallying behind Ahmed, and support is being offered to him.

Ahmed doesn't need money or millions of voices on social media rallying to his defense. He just needs a safe space where his creativity can flourish, and to be surrounded by people who will appreciate and encourage it.

It's obvious his school is not that place. That's heartbreaking.