On Monday, September 14th, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing a clock, that was mistaken for a bomb, to his high school in Irving, Texas. Mohamed had built the clock himself, but suspicions spurred the police to seize his invention. Mohamed was suspended from school for three days.
There has been an outpouring of support for Mohamed from various influential individuals, including President Barack Obama, who invited him to the White House. However, Mohamed’s negative experience indicates the detrimental effects of stereotypes that can lead to sweeping generalizations about groups of people.
According to the New York Times, Irving police chief Larry Boyd said that if Mohamed had been White, the police force would have utilized the same protocol. However, there has been great discussion of whether Mohamed was suspected of malicious intent because of his race or religion. Mohamed is Sudanese and Muslim.
It is truly sad that biases against certain races are prevalent and entrenched in our society. Through the actions of a few, large groups of innocent and virtuous people are miscategorized under various assumptions. This debilitates our society, often leading us to view each other in skewed lenses.
Though a case has been made to justify the actions of the Irving police and the faculty of MacArthur High School, who are charged with the safety of their students, their arrest of a student in that context was totally inappropriate.
We should celebrate the innovation of Mohamed and other great American students. America applaud Mohamed for his achievement, not misunderstand him because of his race or religion. If we constrain ourselves to the misconceptions that are rampant in our society, we will be doing an injustice to many innocent people who do not deserve this marginalization.
Mohamed’s innovation and courage is inspiring, and should galvanize others to pursue their passions, despite the perceptions that attempt to tear them down.
Leon Yang can be contacted at [email protected]