Cries of racism followed word of a Muslim student arrested for bringing a homemade clock to his school in Texas.
Zero tolerance sometimes makes zero sense.
A 14-year-old student Ahmed Mohamed was arrested Tuesday for bringing a homemade digital clock to school. Despite the skill and ingenuity involved in creating a clock from scratch, as the story goes, the device beeped during his English class, prompting his teacher to confuse it for a bomb.
Police were called. The teen was handcuffed and taken to the police station for questioning.
He was suspended from school.
Charges were not filed and the student was released to his parents after police sorted it all out.
Social media went bananas over the incident. The president even joined the discussion:
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
The #IStandWithAhmed hashtag has been trending with all sorts of people showing their support (and in some cases, posting selfies of themselves holding clocks of various types).
“I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed told reporters Wednesday.
His name and Muslim faith immediately prompted accusations of racial profiling and “Islamophobia”
Then there was Gawker, who went so far as to compose an article titled, “7 Kids Not Named Mohamed Who Brought Homemade Clocks to School And Didn’t Get Arrested” that succeeded in comparing apples to oranges: the problem with their absurd article is that most, if not all, of the scenarios they list from news reports focus on class projects or “science fair”-type events, in which unusual, unexpected “devices” would be the norm.
Ahmed’s clock was not part of such an organized demonstration of scientific ingenuity and could therefore not be seen within that particular context.
It is easy to assume that because he was, as he has been described, “brown,” and has a Muslim-sounding name, this could only have been a case of racism.
However, in this day and age, one can reasonably suspect that a teacher might overreact when met with a student with a strange-looking device that looks like some sort of time keeper regardless of the student’s race. The man who gunned down a reporter and photojournalist on live television last month was black. The man who accused of gunning down nine people in a Charleston church is white.
“Muslimophobia” is a convenient excuse, and while it may well have played a part, even a big part in what happened, we live in a different world these days.
Imagine what would have been said about the teacher, the school and the police if the device had actually been a legitimate threat but nothing was said because they assumed no possible danger.
The teacher didn’t know what this unexpected device was. Her job was protecting the other students and she reported what she considered a potential danger. One can argue — and some have — that the police should have been able to ascertain that the clock was a clock.
What I was left wondering amid all the finger pointing was a basic, simple question: once everyone did know that the device was a clock, that no ill intent existed and that no charges were filed, why did his high school keep his suspension in place?
It seems a perfectly reasonable question to me.