When Educators Need Educating
Today Americans learned of the latest episode in a series of racial, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim events that threatens the fabric of American society. A fourteen year old genius by the name of Ahmed Mohamed who attends Irving ISD, Texas was arrested by police without charge and later released, after he brought to school a clock he engineered and wanted to share wit his teacher and classmates. The “clock” was mistaken for a “hoax bomb” and we all know how to fill in the blanks. A statement released by Irving ISD to parents of children at the school explained that the seemingly “suspicious looking item” (the clock!) “did not pose a threat.” Neither apology nor investigation of the responsible administrators has yet been undertaken.
The good news is that in this particular case, America knows better than those administrators in Irving ISD. President Barack Obama, presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google, NASA, MIT and a host of organizations and individuals from the IT, political and media spheres have come out in support of Ahmed. The bad news is that racial, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment has penetrated so deeply into American institutions, so as to mock its public school system. This issue is particularly relevant to me as an educator as well as an immigrant–for obvious reasons.
Built on Immigrants. Built on Race.
America was built on immigrants. “America runs on immigrants.” But it was also built on race–and a particularly unhealthy treatment of non-white populations: Slavery, Jim Crow, Native Americans, Mexican Deportation, Vietnam, Iraq, and on and on. This is where the American dream meets the American nightmare. I need not recount history, but I wonder how many Americans truly understand the importance of immigrants to the United States? The largest economy, leader in global technologies and most powerful military in the world cannot function without brown immigrants. That’s right, America needs immigrants from the Middle East, India, China, Mexico and elsewhere to survive. It is for good reason that the physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, calls the H1-B (for immigrant workers) the “genius visa” and America’s “secret weapon.” Otherwise America domestically simply does not produce nearly enough geniuses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and increasingly Business and other sciences as well–the stuff we all need to live and keep the world moving!
Meanwhile, the public atmosphere in the US (and even overseas in Europe) is rife with anti-immigrant sentiment. Followers of right wing, conservative or evangelical leaders–what I like to call ‘non contributing zeros’–have programmed Americans to disbelieve in science (e.g. climate change, the big bang, etc) and make up a war against ‘terror.’ So is it really any wonder why a school administrator would be ignorant of what a digital clock looks like AND call the cops on a young brown male?
Silicon Valley–where most of the technology in your home, car and business come from–as well as Microsoft, are completely dependent on immigrants to engineer and innovate stuff for our lives. Most American PhDs are foreign born immigrants. Chicago’s famous Sears/Willis Tower–once the tallest building in the world–was designed by Fazlur Rahman Khan, an immigrant. Millions of unnamed Mexican immigrants build Americas homes, produce their food and fill all areas of service. Yet millions more rally behind GOP candidates (Donald Trump and others) to build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out, as well as to start a new war in the Middle East (Iran).
America’s race problem (terrorism!) is now colliding with its immigrant power. And if we don’t fix the problem, the brains will go elsewhere, leaving the rest behind–permanently. So in conclusion, as long as America is number one, then we all owe an unpayable debt to immigrants like Ahmed Mohamed.