On Sunday, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed built a homemade clock. It wasn't especially difficult for him, and the result wasn't polished — it looked like a mess of wires and circuitry. He was still adjusting to life as a high schooler, and he wanted to bring in something cool to show his teachers.
Mohamed eagerly showed several teachers the clock and explained what it was, but he didn't get the congratulations he was expecting. Instead, he left school in handcuffs.
I expect they will have more to say tomorrow, but Ahmed's sister asked me to share this photo. A NASA shirt! pic.twitter.com/nR4gt992gB
Young Mohamed's story has drawn accusations of racism and Islamophobia, and many — scientists, technologists and members of the general public alike — are expressing shock and outrage. But as with any incident of discrimination, especially in science, the truth is that we aren't really shocked. And that's the worst part.
The ordeal reminds many of what a young woman named Kiera Wilmot endured in 2013: Wilmot, also a budding scientist, was accused of lighting a chemical fire when one of her experiments went awry. By the time criminal charges were dropped, she had already been expelled from her school.