What’s a worse use of the word “random”? A girl, upon realizing she has the same name as the barista, saying, “OMG that is so random,” or a TSA agent motioning to a brown guy and saying, “You’ve been randomly selected”?
The question matters in light of the recent Ahmed clock incident and the strained American-Muslim relations it symbolizes. If you’re not sure who Ahmed is, I’m impressed that someone out there has been off social media for, like, 11 days. I read an article* saying that’s very rare.
Here’s what happened: Ahmed Mohamed — or, as he’s known in math circles, Ahmed[1 + Mo] — transplanted the innards of an old clock into a pencil case, resulting in a pretty unhelpful contraption that I won’t judge because I once failed at Building-A-Bear in a Workshop designed specifically for that. His teacher thought the contraption looked like a bomb, and he was arrested.
The day after Ahmed’s arrest, Donald Trump was asked, “When can we get rid of [Muslims]?” His response was seriously off-putting: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.” I’m sure you’d agree that this is far too vague. This isn’t healthcare, Donald. We cant just “work out some sort of a really smart deal” later. This is actually pressing!
Among the skeptics is social assassin Bill Maher, who defended the school’s actions on the basis that “it looks exactly like a fuckin’ bomb.” Fair criticism. But then he attacked Ahmed’s skill as an engineer, noting that “it took 20 seconds for somebody [on Youtube] to do what this kid did.” Not so fair, considering that the guy on Youtube, perhaps highoffdank himself, probably studied electrical engineering in college. You can’t just attack a prepubescent’s skills in order to draw conclusions about his character.
If I could, I’d show up at one of Maher’s kid’s little league games, and just after he dinked a grounder to the pitcher, I’d step up and launch one way out of the park and get all up in little Billy Jr.’s face like “HAHA YOU IDIOT WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? DO YOU NOT HAVE ALL THIS MUSCLE MASS I’VE ACCRUED OVER MY MID-TO-LATE TEEN YEARS?”
During the (social) media whirlwind, Chris Matthews articulated what should be the main takeaway of this incident: everyone has been too quick to take sides without appreciating all the facts. If we want to tackle our Islamophobia, perhaps we should start not with a high school engineer, but with the undiscussed, systematic racial profiling instituted by the NYPD after 9/11.