Today I was sitting in a creative meeting about our holiday campaign at littleBits, centered around how to inspire kids all over the world to unleash their inner inventor, when a story of a young Muslim boy in Irving, TX emerges and takes the Internet by storm. Ahmed is a curious, inventive and overachieving boy who wanted to impress his teachers, and got punished for it. He got punished by being made to feel like a criminal, or even suspicious. He was humiliated by having handcuffs put on him in front of his school friends and for the world to see.
This is infuriating. It’s infuriating to think about how many other kids like Ahmed are subjected to this everyday that we don’t hear about. How many get discouraged of their potential because of their skin color or gender or religion or political climate. It’s infuriating knowing how much hard work it is to get kids inspired to be inventors and engineers and changemakers at a time when heroes are teenagers with lip implants. It’s infuriating because I was that kid who brought homemade projects to school. I am a muslim and an arab and I grew up in Lebanon at a school that encouraged inventing, or at least didn’t discourage it, and therefore I have turned it into my life’s mission to pay it forward. My friends, colleagues and I have been discriminated against and detained at airports. But I’ve never been arrested, and I can’t imagine how it feels to be treated like this.
It makes me convinced of how important it is to elevate kids like Ahmed and inspire others to emulate him, so they don’t vow to “never bring an invention to school again.”
Ahmed, you represent what will make the world a better place. I stand by you, littleBits stands by you, and a generation of educators, inventors and optimists in the world stand by you. If this note gets to you, I would love to meet you and sit and invent with you. The only way you win is by doing it over and over. Let the humiliation turn into pride. Let this make you stronger. Let this make you more curious. We all have your back. We’re sending you lots of littleBits kits – go invent!