#StandingwithAhmed: When the Public Thinks Differently Than Public Officials

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year old boy in Irving, Texas, was arrested for bringing clock he made to school. As President Obama tweeted, he made a really cool clock! It’s quite impressive. (When I was his age, I could barely pass pre-algebra - and this boy straight up invented a functioning technological object!)

The President of the United States, the head of Facebook, and other leaders have lauded Ahmed’s ingenuity, and invited him into their spaces:

                                                      image via 'lxopez' on Twitter

                                                      image via 'lxopez' on Twitter

While top-flight national institutions welcome Ahmed's enterprising scientific spirit, Ahmed’s Irving, TX teachers and police were suspicious and hostile towards it.  

The #istandwithahmed campaign illuminates a larger fission in our country: public officials vs. the public. And often, the media vs. the public. Political and media elites live in big, highly diverse states full of immigrants. Yet the majority of the American public does not. 

When people talk about “forward movements” in this country – growing our entrepreneurial base, growing global exchange, growing mixed-race populations, empowering diverse communities – we are often talking about big cities. National leadership (and the tech companies that fuel them) loves these ideas, yet municipal leadership is marching to a different beat entirely.

We live in two Americas. The President stands with young Ahmed on Twitter, yet his teachers thought to stand with him only long enough to hand him over to authorities.

As activists, we can extend our hand over the Internet, but what about the hand that locks – or unlocks – little Ahmed’s handcuffs?

How do we bridge this divide other than through #clicktivism?