If there is one thing that social media does very well, it is to rush to judgment. Within a few hours after high school freshman Ahmed Mohamed was handcuffed and hauled to police headquarters in Irving for bringing a “suspicious” homemade clock to school, cyber-pontificators everywhere were heaping scorn on school officials and the Irving Police Department for thinking it may have been a bomb.
Even President Obama chimed in onTwitter, inviting Ahmed to bring his “cool clock” to the White House. “We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great,” he tweeted.
Chiming in from a distance and surrounded by 24-hour, armed security, the president could afford to be jocular. But teachers and their students don’t share the president’s 24-hour bodyguards, and teachers aren’t trained to recognize bombs.
Did teachers and administrators at MacArthur High School overreact to Ahmed’s clock? Probably, especially since he tried to explain to them what it was. But school officials are charged with keeping their students safe — to the point, sometimes, of erring on the side of caution and risking ridicule.
Did the Irving police officers overreact? Most likely, particularly since they apparently didn’t even try to evacuate the school or call in a bomb expert before they hauled Ahmed off.
The school district and the Irving Police Department owe Ahmed and his family a public apology, and they need to address one more question.
Was Ahmed, a dark-skinned Muslim, a victim of racial and/or religious profiling? I don’t know, but that issue needs to be thoroughly examined.
For sure, Ahmed was a victim of an uneasy, post-Sept. 11 environment punctuated by deadly episodes of school shootings and other acts of violence and inflamed by anti-immigrant, racist-tinged political rhetoric that now has become a staple of debate for the nation’s highest office.
His teachers, administrators and fellow students at MacArthur High School and at schools across the United States are affected by the same unhealthy environment.