Profiling a hot button issue

Prejudging takes a toll on everyone.

Liana Lum, Editor-in-Chief

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Looking at images of Texas high school freshman Ahmed Mohamed’s homemade clock, it is plausible his teacher misunderstood its function and mistook it for a bomb. But, what’s troubling is even after the clock was confirmed as harmless, the Muslim was still arrested, interrogated and suspended from school for three days.

School officials were correct to respond to a suspected threat, yet they did not evacuate the school or call a bomb squad, standard protocol for a suspected bomb threat. Even after confirming that Mohamed’s creation was a clock, the school confiscated it and offered the aspiring engineer no apology or praise.

Mohamed was wrongly accused and essentially punished for curiosity and willingness to learn, values most teachers would highly praise. He stated in an interview that there was an emphasis on his last name during his interrogation and that he was repeatedly questioned for possible connections to explosives, despite his multiple denials of intending to cause any harm or alarm.

While the Internet is filled with images of Mohamed enjoying the Google Science Fair as a VIP, tweets of encouragement and invitations from President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, it is important to remember that profiling, whether consciously or subconsciously, affects all of us.

Living in a city as diverse as San Francisco, it is easy to pride ourselves in the acceptance of people of all races and orientations. Yet, stereotypes and prejudices influence even the most open-minded of us. It is instinctive to assume the worst of someone you don’t know rather than be unbiased and vulnerable to possible danger. But, degrading anyone based solely on prejudice without any prior knowledge on his or her background is inexcusable.
Speculating on other possible reactions if Mohamed had been a different race or religion will not result in any change. Rather, it is important to focus on the fact that even the most innocent and well-intentioned individuals can be guilty of profiling.

When that happens, it’s time for individuals to take responsibility for their misjudgments, to be consciously aware and acknowledge that they are profiling and misjudging other people. There’s a difference between being vigilant and being closed minded with quick judgements.

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