Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sometimes, the Internet explodes. In a good way.

Sometimes, the Internet explodes. As in "it goes ka-boom like a clock" - or wait, was that a bomb?

You might know by now what I'm hinting at. If not, let me get you up to speed: a 14-year-old kid was taken in handcuffs from his school in the US because he brought a clock to school and someone thought that was suspicious, and it could be related to a bomb. (Go here for Dallas Morning News about the thing, and the updates.)

Obviously, when you're trying to show one of your teachers what you can do, you don't expect to be taken away from school to be interrogated and then suspended for a few days. I remember bringing things I made to school, showing them to my teachers, and receiving praise and encouragement - just what I had hoped for.

The kid in question, however, is named "Ahmed Mohamed" and has a brown skin, and it's unfortunately statistically evident that there's a strong imbalance in how white and non-white folks are treated.

However, in this case, the Internet took notice. And exploded. Just like a clock would. (Right? Clocks explode all the time, don't they?) There's a trending hashtag on Twitter, #IStandWithAhmed, pics of people bringing clocks to work, and Ahmed has received offers from all kinds of places - scholarships, internships, sponsorings, invitations to visit (including the White House, which is kind of awesome), and lots and lots of other ways of support.

This, folks, is what the Internet is for. For exploding about social injustice, and human stupidity, and giving support where it is needed - in words, in kind, in acts, in money. It won't work all the time - nothing like this happens without there being a pinch of luck to have it mentioned in the right way at the right place and time - but it still gives me hope.

It's just one individual case, sure, and similar things have probably happened lots and lots of time and gone by unnoticed. However, Ahmed's clock kerfuffle has set an example, and it has made obvious that there is an imbalance in how people are treated.

We all have a socio-cultural background, and this always, always, always includes prejudice. We are all humans, and we all have a fear of the "other". That is normal, and natural, and deeply, deeply human. However, we can try to be aware of our prejudices and struggle to give fair chances, making the world a place with less fear and less misunderstandings and less stupidity - in short, a better place for all of us to live in. The only way to battle prejudice is to be aware that oneself will have it, be aware of when it rears its ugly head, stare it in the face and consciously go against it. Go look at things again. Go meet with the people in question. Go and try to be open.

So... I hope that Ahmed's case will help raise awareness in all of us that we might just be prejudiced without having it noticed before, and that we should think twice before suspecting someone of planning evil deeds. I also hope that this thing will calm down in a timely manner to a sane remainder of ongoing support for Ahmed, leaving him and his family to lead normal(-ish) lives again. Which includes having something like a normal-ish childhood for Ahmed, and the slack that is needed to mess up things sometimes and make stupid decisions and, in short, be delightfully teenaged.

The lives of Ahmed and his family will have changed through this, though instead of leaving Ahmed with a stigma as a juvenile offender, he now has fame - a much more positive change in a life, with much more potential.

Ahmed, may you live well and prosper, invent many things and help make the world a better place. You certainly have the opportunity to do great things with your life now - enjoy them, but please don't get stressed out, or feel like you have to be perfect now. You are fourteen. You will mess up things. You will fail in things. Go do it, it's your life, you are entitled to make mistakes. Make them, and make them your own, and grow from them and learn.

Oh, and thanks for blowing up the Internet with your clock.


Anonymous said...

In another good but mini-explosion way, those following British politics will know that the 'opposition' Labour Party got a new leader this week. Once a week at 'Prime Minister Questions' (PMQs) the opposition get to ask the Prime Minister live in Parliament what the Prime Minister's government is really doing and the Prime Minister is supposed to answer. Yesterday was Corbyn's first PMQs. Instead of asking a usual rehash of big party questions he asked a new series of questions selected from 40,000 that had been crowd-sourced to him, starting with the crises in housing and mental health.
It was such an impressive departure from the norm that instead of getting a passing mention on the news later, it was put live on mainstream national broadcast for 20 minutes.

Susan said...

The picture of that child in handcuffs was heartbreaking. I'm glad he got so much support.