BLACK VOICES

His Name Is Ahmed Mohamed, Not 'Clock Kid'

Why the seemingly cute nickname is a problem.

It was reported this week that Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Texas teen who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, is receiving a full-ride academic scholarship in Qatar.

It's certainly amazing news for Mohamed and his family, who received rousing on the Internet after the teen's arrest in September. But there's also been a subtle, off-putting trend in the reporting of this latest development. Numerous outlets, from New York magazine to Slate, have referred to Mohamed as "Clock Kid" in their headlines. 

But... can we not?

Yes, it's a pithy, headline-friendly moniker, an easy way to quickly get across that the kid who built that clock is the subject of this article. But Ahmed Mohamed has a name, and as innocuous as using "Clock Kid" might seem, it devalues the severity of what actually happened to him.

His story has, ultimately, been a positive one. From being unfairly profiled by his teacher to meeting the president of the United States and now, getting the academic opportunity of a lifetime, Mohamed's story is a best-case scenario. But there are tons of kids (and adults, for that matter) who deal with this kind of religious and racial profiling who don't get a press conference or a tweet from POTUS.

"Clock Kid," for all its expedience, subtly colors Mohamed's story as just a harmless misadventure. It wasn't. The initial horror at what happened to Mohamed has devolved into a kind of feel-good human interest story where we seem to only vaguely acknowledge that the reason we even know who he is is because he was unfairly arrested as a suspected terrorist. Over a clock.  

That's what made the #IStandWithAhmed campaign so important -- it named Mohamed, acknowledged his humanity, and reminded us that we were standing with him against Islamaphobia and racism. "Clock Kid" may be seemingly cute, but all it does is mask a problem that we still, unfortunately, insist on avoiding. 

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