The Pathos of Politics (112-11) US Policing continued 3


  Student Clockmaker

This episode is a good illustration of pernicious stereotypes. Ahmed’s teachers failed him. ~ White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest

Irving, Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed was 14 years old when he got his 1st real civics lesson.

Ahmed made an electronic clock from parts, then took it to his school to show his engineering teacher. The teacher was impressed but warned Ahmed not to show his clock to other teachers.

Alas, the clocked beeped during English class. Ahmed was forced to reveal his clock when the English teacher demanded to know what was going on.

The clock was in an aluminum case, with a digital display on the outside. Opening the case revealed the contents: a circuit board and a small AC/DC voltage converter (for powering the board).

The English teacher and school administrators, too stupid to recognize the nature of the device, were unwilling to believe Ahmed when he told them what it obviously was. So they called the police.

The boy was arrested, handcuffed – “for his safety and for the safety of the officers” according to the local police chief – and taken to the police station for hours of interrogation. Police constantly brought up Ahmed’s last name (Mohamed), as if it was somehow meaningful (which, of course, it was to them).

Ahmed was not allowed to call his parents, nor was offered the right to any legal counsel.

It made me feel like I wasn’t human. ~ Ahmed Mohamed

Law enforcement officials finally figured out that they had made, in their own words, a “naïve accident” over a “suspicious device.” They still illegally kept his clock. The police chief refused to answer why Ahmed had been denied his legal rights.

No charges were filed against Ahmed. The town mayor said she did “not fault the school or the police,” but then admitted that she would be “very upset” if the same thing happened to her own child.

For his studious ambition, Ahmed was suspended from school for 3 days. Ahmed subsequently withdrew from the school in disgust.

It would not have occurred if he did not have a Muslim name and have a heritage from the Muslim world. ~ Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations

 Brutal Spray

The court was profoundly disturbed by some of the testimony it heard. ~ US district court Judge Abdul Kallon

Police at Birmingham, Alabama public schools – whose students are predominantly black – sprayed ~300 students with noxious military-grade chemical spray in 110 incidents between 2006 and 2011. Many of dousings were for non-threatening infractions, such as verbally questioning authority.

The spray used was Freeze +P: a mixture of pepper spray and teargas designed to have “strong respiratory effects” and “severe pain,” according to the product manufacturer. One victim described the effects on her face as feeling “like someone had cut it and poured hot sauce on it.”

In 1 instance, a 15-year-old student who was 5 months pregnant was sprayed without warning for crying. The girl had already been handcuffed. She vomited upon being sprayed. There was no threat from the pregnant girl. She was 5′ 4″ tall, 130 lbs. The policeman who wantonly sprayed her was 6′ tall, and weighed 200 lbs.

The court is especially taken aback that a police officer charged with protecting the community’s children considered it appropriate and necessary to spray a girl with Freeze +P simply because she was crying about her mistreatment at the hands of one of her male peers. ~ Judge Kallon

Once subdued, police did nothing to alleviate victims’ pain, even as there were facilities to wash the toxins off.

An Alabama federal court found that students’ civil rights had been violated. The Birmingham police department declined to comment on the matter.


Racist police brutality regularly occurs throughout the US. Black teens are 21 times more likely to be gunned down by police than white teens. Blacks are more than twice as likely to unarmed when murdered by police as whites.

Most whites do not recognize the systemic racial bias, and so do not comprehend the resentment of blacks against oppressive, white-run, state power.

Communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. ~ President Barack Obama in 2016

  Danièle Watts

In 2014, Danièle Watts, a black actress, was abusively handcuffed (bloody wrists) and detained by Beverley Hills police for kissing her white husband in public. The police, who also threatened her spouse, had trouble disabusing themselves of the notion that Watts was not a prostitute. The police department refused to apologize for their violent misapprehension.

As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong. I felt his shame, his anger, and my own feelings of frustration for existing in a world where I have allowed myself to believe that ‘authority figures’ could control my being. ~ American actress Danièle Watts