America Backs Wrongly-Accused Teen Ahmed Mohamed With #IStandwithAhmed

Screengrab of Ahmed Mohamed
Screengrab of Ahmed Mohamed

Today has been a horrible day for America, and incredibly enough, it’s also been a redeeming day for America. In a fast show of force, what seems like the majority of America have joined forces to show that we Stand with Ahmed Mohamed. 

Ahmed, a 14-year-old high school student in Irving, TX, came to school with his engineering project, a working clock. When he showed it to his engineering teacher (who has yet to say anything about her involvement in the story), her reaction to the invention and later actions taken lead to the police arresting Ahmed. You can read about it here, since the story’s really heartbreaking and I don’t feel like recounting every moment of it, especially since the Dallas Morning News does a great job at giving the details and follow-ups. But some extremely heartbreaking parts that stood out to me were these:

  • “We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” [police spokesman James McLellan] said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:”It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”
  • “They thought, ‘How could someone like this build something like this unless it’s a treat?” Ahmed said.
  • “He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” said Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, who immigrated from Sudan and occasionally returns there to run for president. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”Mohamed is familiar with anti-Islamic politics. He once made national headlines for debating a Florida pastor who burned a Quran.
  • “This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” said Alia Salem, who directs the council’s North Texas chapter and has spoken to lawyers about Ahmed’s arrest. “We’re still investigating,” she said, “but it seems pretty egregious.”

This ill-advised letter from Ahmed’s school also didn’t help matters, to say the least:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsOne of the biggest ironies of the whole tragic event is that when he was arrested, Ahmed was wearing a NASA shirt. It makes the whole thing, including the insane disbelief at a boy simply creating a clock to learn more about electronics and engineering, sad on a profound level. You can wear a NASA shirt, show an interest in something that could help humanity, like engineering, and still be considered a threat simply because of your skin color, your religion, and your name.

Since the event, there has been tons of outrage and, thankfully, a tremendous swell of support from high and low, including President Obama, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton, the Google Science Fair, NASA, Twitter and more, all culled within the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed, which is still trending on Twitter. People have also been tweeting pictures of themselves with clocks, showing how horrifying it is that a simple gizmo can be seen as a threat.

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In response to the outpouring of support, Ahmed’s sisters created Ahmed’s Twitter account, @IStandWithAhmed, to thank the supporters and to keep us all updated on what’s next for him on a civil rights journey he didn’t ask for.

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I Stand with Ahmed as well. It’s too unfortunate that there are still large parts of America that believe in stereotypes as reality, which leads to these tragedies (and worse) happening. What’s just as unfortunate is that many of the people who do stereotype and inflict harm on others because of those stereotypes don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong.

However, something I’ve also been heartened by is just how quickly America and, indeed, the world, came to young Ahmed’s aid. I think, in the midst of Donald Trump and racebaiting and intense stereotyping and crimes against people of color, America might have reached a snapping point when it comes to all forms of racism and discrimination. Am I saying we’re at a Kumbayah moment? Of course not. Things will still keep happening. But, I’d like to think that it does seem like a corner has been turned as far as how the multitude of America thinks about equality. I think many have realized just how hard it is to keep up the fight against bigotry, and how important equality is. Perhaps I’m just seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but I do feel like a culmination of a brutal summer has transpired into many more Americans being educated about how deep racial discrimination can go in society. The quick response shows me that even though there are tons of Americans intent on “Making America Right (i.e. White) Again,” there are many, many more Americans intent on protecting the rights of all people.

EDIT: Edited to include Twitter’s offer to Ahmed of an internship.

Screencap from the Dallas Morning News.