Ever what happens when you science while brown?
CHRIS: Remember going to kid science fairs?
WOODY: I loved science fairs! There was always a kid who had a pet gerbil or hamster in a maze.
CHRIS: Someone would have something about photosynthesis with a pretty flower and a sickly looking pea pod.
WOODY: One super nerd would make a clock or a robot.
CHRIS: My favorite was the model volcano. Who doesn’t love that? There’s ooze and food colouring and a little explosion. Well, it seems now that science experiments can get you in jail.
CHRIS: Last week, future tech CEO Ahmed Mohamed was arrested. He built a digital clock and was excited to show it to his engineering teacher.
WOODY: Well, how’s that going to get him trouble? That sounds like a bright kid!
CHRIS: Well, another teacher turned him in, and he was grilled by police without presence his parents (which is illegal) and put in cuffs. No one apologized. Both the Irving, TX School Board and the Irving Police said that he shouldn’t have brought his project to school. So in other words, don’t be excited about science when you’re brown! This is where kids trying to have fun runs up against “zero tolerance” policies and good ole’ fashion American racism. Irving is famous for being extra anti-Islam; its mayor has been fighting a war against the Muslim invasion of her city since 2011.
WOODY: But they’re like 2% of the 230,000 people there. How is that an invasion.
CHRIS: Woody. It’s Texas.
WOODY: Oh, yeah.
CHRIS: So now we have a “zero tolerance” policy running up against people who are suspicious of a brown kid who loves science. This is not the first time a kid was arrested in the name of science. In 2013, Kiera Wilmot made one of those volcanos, and she was arrested for possession of a weapon, because it made an explosion, which is WHAT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO DO. The charges were dropped, but she still has a felony arrest on her record for 5 more years.
WOODY: You know, zero tolerance doesn’t just affect kids who love science. A kid wrote her love of her best friends on a desk and was cuffed and taken to a police station. And Kids who hug too long are getting suspended. A kid in Maryland was arrested for sexual assault for kissing a girl.
CHRIS: Yeah zero tolerance basically requires that everyone act like they are inmates, not students. It’s pre-prison. It’s messed up, because kids love things that blow up. They love slime and gross things, and they love robots. Punishing them for trying to recreate this stuff is like witch hunting.
WOODY: They’ll have to be careful at the next science fair. If you have a hamster maze, you might get arrested for germ warfare.
CHRIS: Your photosynthesis plant project will land you in trouble for disseminating a bio weapon.
WOODY: If you make a Mentos/Diet Coke rocket, you might get arrested for having an improvised explosive device.
CHRIS: Your potato battery is nothing but a detonator for a bomb.
WOODY: Don’t even THINK about building nuclear reactor in your garage.
CHRIS: Oh no, you can do that. Just be white.
WOODY: Oh, right.
CHRIS: The bottom line is this: If you claim you want more brown kids and girls to embrace science, then don’t arrest them for doing science and then wonder why they are afraid to embrace STEM fields!