Ahmed Mohamed demanded US$15M from Texas authorities for the racist clock incident. In today’s climate, will Silicon Valley support him?
This week, the story of Ahmed Mohamed, the kid who came to class one day with a homemade clock and was subsequently arrested because the school thought the object was a bomb, has moved forward.
The 14-year old schoolboy is seeking US$15 million in damages and wants a written apology from the local Mayor and Police Chief of Irving, Texas. He says he will pursue a civil lawsuit if the demands are not met.
But this isn’t really about the money. It is about how those responsible for thrusting him into the national spotlight — American startup royalty Google, Facebook and Box (not to mention, of course, President Barack Obama) — handle the demands.
The ‘moment’ has passed, but the kid did not go away and enjoy his 15-minutes of fame and a Google internship. Instead he continues to poke the bear. He, and his family, are ensuring this story is not placed alongside the thousands of other cases that prompt instant-outrage, only to be forgotten two weeks later.
The last time I wrote about Mohamed’s story, I had a rather cynical outlook on the tech community’s reaction. At the time, I felt like it was a calculated public relations ploy to put the Facebook or Google brand on the ‘right’ side of race relations in the United States. Furthermore, I was especially erked that Twitter had the gonnads to tweet its support despite being one of the most egregious contributors to San Francisco’s white-wash gentrification.
But, something major happened between now and then.
And with it came a tidal wave of xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist and, to be frank, truly terrifying rhetoric. American presidential candidates are suggesting closing down mosques and banning Muslim refugees from the country. British Muslims are finding themselves increasingly victimised by hate crimes. Even Singapore is discussing inter-religious relations post-Paris.
Which is why — Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, Aaron Levie — Ahmed Mohamed, just put you to the test.
Will you, when public support may not be in Mohamed’s favour, stand up for the kid?
In September, the Mohamed case was easy to support. Nobody ‘supports racism’. It felt like the whole country was using the ‘Clock Kid’ as an example of America’s struggles with Islam. But while the orgy of Internet hugs made everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside, Mohamed moved to Qatar — citing both opportunity abroad and vilification at home.
After Paris, there is no highlighting. America’s Islamophic tendencies are out in the open, full-blown, for the world to see. There is no momentum for the unfortunate kid who made a clock; the conversation is divisive, emotional and with strong opinions coming from both directions.
So now I wonder — as Ahmed Mohamed tries to ensure another Muslim kid does not suffer the same fate as he did — if Silicon Valley has the courage to stand up for what is right.
The post OTR: Remember the clock kid? Silicon Valley now has a big test appeared first on e27.
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