This article appeared on the internet yesterday, and social media went crazy. I badly wanted to write a post about it, but I had school. So this morning, I sat down to read the article again and share some thoughts on it. and could not stop laughing at several points along the way. This story, sadly, is a comical display of how much we've lost it as a nation.
The gist of the story is that a young man, who is apparently at 14 already smarter than I could ever hope to be, created a clock out of a pencil case. Yes. He took that thing that holds pencils and made it tell time. I can barely open mine to get pencils out. So you would think that this story would focus in on the achievement and ability of this young man. You'd be wrong. Why are you wrong? Because the young man's name is Ahmed Mohamed. Ahmed brought his clock to school with pride to show it off to his teacher, and was rewarded for his efforts with a pair of handcuffs and a ride to the police station. Here's the quote that started making me giggle:
Irving Police spokesman Officer James McLellan told the station, "We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only tell us that it was a clock."
The teenager did that because, well, it was a clock, he said.
I love that. I imagine it went like this:
"What's that thing!'
"It's a clock."
"Well, what does it do?"
"It tells time."
Apparently there are all sorts of other issues with the story. This young man was held for a considerable length of time without being given the privileged of a phone call to his parents. He was questioned without his parents or a lawyer present. He was (and in fact, still is for reasons I can't fathom) suspended from school until today, Thursday. He's unsure he will go back to the school in question. I can't imagine why.
Here are the sad facts, in ascending order of sadness. 1) Neither the school, police, or community have apologized in any way to Ahmed yet, at least at the time of this writing. I get that we are scared. I get that sometimes we go too far in the name of safety. What I don't get is the insistence that even after we blow it we can't be human beings and offer our apologies. Someone mistook a clock for a bomb. The least you can do is say "my bad."
2) Teenagers often get a bum wrap. As a youth worker, I am constantly amazed at what my students are able to do. No one I know as of yet has built their own clock, but they are dancers and writers and poets and scientists and sports stars and magnificent people on a level I can't possibly imagine. And yet, so frequently it is assumed they are incapable of contributing to society. They are constantly locked into the "we'll pay attention to you when you're older" meme, and if they do offer up an amazing contribution it can apparently be recognized as a threat to the rest of us. This behavior needs to stop. Teenagers can make contributions, and in fact they're doing it every day all around us. Perhaps it's time we take notice.
3) This story, I am roundly convinced, simply would not exist if this kids name was Gary. Hard as it might be for us to swallow, our nation has deep racial divides and racist tendencies that are out of control. And here's the kicker, if you claim to believe in Christ, you have a duty to stand up and say enough. There is no longer Jew or Greek. There is no longer black and white. There is no longer Arab and everyone else. We are the new humanity, and frankly I think it's time to start acting like it.
There's not much you or I can do for Ahmed. Actually, through these sad circumstances he might wind up gaining a few yards, as he's already been invited to the White House to share his invention with the President. I would imagine that's going to look good on a resume! But for all of us who stare racism in the face each and every day, we need to summon the courage to say enough. It's long overdue.