Why I Stand With Ahmed… This Texas Teen Is Speaking Out

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By Kaylee Kimbrough – On Tuesday news broke of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school freshman who was arrested Monday because a clock he built and brought to school “resembled a bomb.” Mohamed, a robotics enthusiast and young inventor, brought the clock he built over the weekend to MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas Monday because he wanted to show his engineering teacher his latest project, consisting of a circuit board, power supply, and digital clock display. Ahmed’s engineering teacher, upon seeing the clock, instructed him “not to show any other teachers.”

Later that day, Mohamed was taken to the principal’s office and asked if he tried “to make a bomb.” He was handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention center by police officers who continually asked if he had tried to make a bomb. Ahmed was later released and is currently serving a three-day suspension.

Ahmed’s story gained national attention and was soon trending worldwide on social media, prompting many to tweet their criticism of the authorities and support for Mohamed. The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed began trending on Twitter Tuesday as thousands rallied in solidarity with Mohamed. On Wednesday afternoon, President Obama invited the teen to the White House via Twitter. Other fans include Mark Zuckerberg and Hillary Clinton.

I cannot begin to comprehend the pressure and stress experienced by both police officers and teachers; however, there is no excuse for treating a bright 14-year-old like a terrorist.

The past year has been one of copious attention paid to misconduct surrounding law enforcement. On the internet and on the streets, young and old alike have expressed their frustrations with racial profiling, discrimination, and unequal treatment. Living in a predominantly white, conservative community, a common perspective I hear on the many disturbing cases that have come to light in the news recently is that “if kids just obeyed the rules and complied with the authorities, they wouldn’t have to worry about anything.” This opinion fails to recognize the double standard that exists for many minorities in America, and particularly for those whose race and culture is associated with violence in the eyes of many Americans. This view suggests that groups that are unjustifiably feared should be subject to and accepting of disproportionate suspicion and chastisement for perceived wrongdoings, or in Mohamed’s case, no wrongdoing at all.

While Mohamed is humiliated and handcuffed for wanting to share his legitimate invention, the truly dangerous decisions of many privileged teenagers are laughed off and excused. I can think of more than a few instances where items far more questionable (and honestly, far less impressive) than Mohamed’s clock were brought to the school I attended during elementary and middle school. It was not uncommon for social studies presentations to feature “historical” props including toy rifles, knives, and slingshots. On one occasion a teacher brought a javelin-like spear to class for students to throw in the yard adjacent to the playground to learn about Texas history. I made poor choices that led to the fire alarm going off not once, but twice, during my time at this school, but my fault became a joke, not a misdemeanor. My purpose in sharing these stories is not to ridicule or expose the aforementioned school and its teachers, for whom I have much respect, but rather to acknowledge the sad reality that while many students can make foolish decisions without worrying about the consequences, others must consider the prejudices and biases held by their superiors in order to avoid suspicion and, potentially, arrest.

I cannot begin to comprehend the pressure and stress experienced by both police officers and teachers; however, there is no excuse for treating a bright 14-year-old like a terrorist. Until “inventing while Muslim” isn’t considered a crime, we should continue to demand police accountability and work toward an America where all students are commended, not arrested, for their ingenuity.

About The Author

Kaylee Kimbrough, a 15-year-old student from Greenville, Texas, is the founder of The Gift Of Joy Project, a truly inspiring non-profit that provides the gift of joy to women in local shelters, transitional housing, and maternity homes at Christmas time in the form of a shoebox filled with small luxury items.

She is also a teen advisory board member for MissHeard Magazine, a dynamic space founded by Lindsey Turnbull where teen girls (ages 12 – 17) can share their stories and learn from each other. In addition to writing for MissHeard, she also writes for The Dallas Morning News as a Student Voices volunteer columnist.

This piece originally appeared on MissHeard Magazine and we are so honored to republish it on Women You Should Know with Kaylee’s permission.

Photo of Ahmed Mohamed from wired.com