Black and brown boys like Ahmed Mohamed, who receive harsher discipline than non-minority students for common actions and behaviors, need to be celebrated when they achieve so that they’ll continue to do so.
I spent a couple of years inside the classroom as an instructor of music, mostly drums, but a little piano, too.
The greatest moments I had as a classroom leader—I didn’t identify as a teacher, but instead a facilitator that provided context, opportunity and access to new learning paradigms—was seeing the children take my lessons to heart, so much so that they created innovations all on their own.
One of my students, a day or two after I showed him how to play a paradiddle on the snare drum, was in the gym—he loved shooting hoops—when he palmed two basketballs, one in each hand, and played for me what he called “a paradribble.”
He sought my approval; he wanted to know that I was proud of him and I was; I called him a genius.
I believed then, as I do know, that black and brown boys, in particular, need to be encouraged and celebrated when they achieve so that they’ll continue to do so.
It’s because of that value that my heart is broken over the arrest and criminalization of Mr. Ahmed Mohamed, an ingenious Irving, Texas, 14 year-old who was racially profiled by at least three of his teachers after he made a digital clock that they mistook for a bomb.
Mr. Mohamed, who in a photograph was handcuffed and wearing a NASA shirt while appearing severely confused, repeatedly told authorities that it was a clock, but police spokesman, Mr. James McLellan, said “It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car,” and with that, police officials are considering charging Mr. Mohamed with making a hoax bomb.
Mr. Mohamed has been suspended and, according to the Dallas Morning News, he vowed never to take another invention to school.
The criminalization and punishment of Mr. Mohamed for what would be heralded as genius if created by his white counterpart follows a distributing trend in America, one where black and brown youth and students with disabilities face harsher discipline than non-minority students for common actions and behaviors.
What happened to Mr. Mohamed occurs too often and is the result of a society transfixed on identifying and judging people based on stereotypes and not their humanity and individuality.
If Mr. Mohamed were my student, he would’ve gotten the biggest high five from me and been affirmed as a brilliant young man of color. But since he’s not my student, the most I can do is join others around the world in saying: #IStandWithAhmed, and I hope you will, too.
* Tune into 900amWURD or 900amWURD.com every Friday evening at 6:30pm to hear me relive #TheWeekThatWas*
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: Vernon Bryant/AP