In Irving, Texas, a 14-year-old high school freshman was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, which school officials and police described as a hoax bomb. The incident speaks to the criminalization that Black children face on a daily basis, the efforts to discourage their creativity, and the lack of support they receive, yet badly need in order to develop and thrive.
Ahmed Mohamed, a student at MacArthur High School and an engineering enthusiast whose father is a Sudanese immigrant, was arrested Monday, handcuffed in front of his classmates, taken to a juvenile detention center, and questioned by police for bringing the clock he’d built to school. He was later released, and police announced there would be no charges filed against him.
“We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school,” said Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd. “Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen, so we have to err on the side of caution.”
Meanwhile, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, who has been accused of Islamophobia, defended the police department’s actions.
“To the best of my knowledge, they followed protocol,” she wrote on Facebook.
Van Duyne received heavy praise from conservatives as an anti-Shariah law crusader following her support of a bill forbidding Texas judges from using foreign law in their rulings. Van Duyne also vowed to look into a “Shariah law court” that was rumored to have been set up by a local area mosque.
“That is not America,” Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed said of his son’s humiliation.
He said he’s considering transferring his son to another school, but is also touched by the outpouring of support for his son.
“What is happening is touching the heart of everyone with children. And that is America.”
The teen, who has received awards for his inventions, received an invitation to the White House from President Obama.
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.
— President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
In addition, Mohamed was invited to visit MIT, the University of Texas at Austin, Google’s science fair, Twitter offices and Facebook offices by founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
At the most recent GOP candidates debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the presidential hopefuls responded to the clock incident by reinforcing the need for more racial profiling. Two candidates used the opportunity not to discuss discrimination, but rather to rail against “radical Islam.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal praised the security guards at the school for being “careful,” adding that although a 14-year-old boy should never be arrested for bringing a clock to school, “I’m glad they’re worried about security and safety issues.”
“The American people, we don’t discriminate against anybody based on the color of their skin or their creed,” said Jindal, calling on Muslim leaders to “denounce” Muslim terrorists if they want to avoid discrimination. “We’re at war today with radical Islamic extremists. It’s not politically correct to say that, but the way you strike that balance, you say to Muslim leaders, denounce these fools, these radical terrorists by name, say they’re not martyrs.”
Jindal also raised what he believes is a larger issue of anti-Christian discrimination, mentioning Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed briefly after failing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. White Christian fundamentalists have compared Davis to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The biggest discrimination that’s going on is against Christian business owners and individuals who believe in traditional forms of marriage,” Jindal said.
Senator Lindsey Graham agreed.
“Kim Davis, I’m not worried about her attacking me,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “I am worried about radical Islamic terrorists who are already here planning another 9/11.”
Graham, who offered that discrimination is not the real issue, took the opportunity to attack “young men from the mid-east,” and “Islamic websites” which he believes should be monitored.
Meanwhile, studies have shown that Black students are punished more harshly than white students, and viewed as criminal problems that are better handled by the police, rather than school counselors. Further, the disciplining of Black children is a nationwide problem, particularly in the South, as children are funneled into a school-to-prison pipeline, their hopes and dreams dashed and their potential never fully realized. This, in a nation that once made it a crime for Black people to learn to read and write.
In 2013, Kiera Wilmot, a Black high school student in Bartow, Florida, was arrested after conducting a science experiment that led to an explosion. In this case, she mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a plastic water bottle. Wilmot faced expulsion, but was given a 10-day suspension and finished her junior year at an alternative school.
“It was a hard transition on my mom, sister and me,” Wilmot told USA Today.
The girl was accepted to Florida Polytechnic Institute, and went to the U.S. Space Academy after a NASA veteran heard about the incident and paid for Wilmot and her twin sister to attend.
“People called me a terrorist because it all happened one week after the Boston Bombings and they were comparing me to the Boston bombers. That never should have happened,” she added.
However, white students are praised and supported from the start for their scientific curiosity and imagination. When Taylor Wilson, 14, built a nuclear reactor in his parents’ home, he was not arrested. Rather, officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Energy met with him, offered their assistance and equipment, and helped him apply for a research grant.
Thankfully, Ahmed Mohamed is receiving support, but so many countless young Black boys and girls are not receiving such sympathy and support, as Black people of all ages have no reprieve from the tyranny of state sanctioned abuse.