Kiva's Note: I was approached by an anonymous source and asked to run this very personal story for #IStandWithAhmed. Ahmed Mohamed was taken from school in handcuffs for the crime of practicing science while brown. This anonymous source wanted to share their experience as a white student by contrast.
In April 20th, 1999, 2 teenagers walked into their high school in Columbine, Colorado and opened fire, killing 13 people before taking their own lives. It was an event unlike anything we'd seen before, school shootings had not yet become a horrifyingly common occurrence. While the news talkers and pundits on TV discussed what was behind it, whether years of bullying had played a part or if violent video games were the cause; others were rightly concerned that this would spawn other copycats throughout the nation. I am one of those copycats, although you will have never heard of me nor my deeds.
A few weeks after Columbine, I was sitting in the auditorium of my new school. It was only my second day, but I got to witness the rehearsal of a play my peers had spent months working on. At one point during the play, a group of girls got up on stage dressed as the Backstreet Boys and began doing one of their songs. Afterwards, a group of boys got on stage dressed as The Spice Girls and began doing one of their songs. While everyone else was enjoying the fruits of their labor, all I could think of was how disgusted I was with how boys were dressed like girls. I made a viciously transphobic remark and was sent to the administrative office for the remainder of the rehearsal.
I sat in the administration office, fuming over being punished for expressing my hate. Not wanting to sit in that office all day, feeling morally justified with myself, and knowing that everyone was still thinking about Columbine, I worked out an idea. I would attach a sticky note to the bathroom mirror that said a bomb had been planted at school and at certain time would detonate. I then asked to go to the bathroom, and was escorted to the bathroom, where I left the note, and was escorted back. Five minutes later a younger student came in to report the note, and it took them all of two seconds to figure out who had left it.
The principle saw my gesture as an insincere threat with no intention of action and rather than alerting the authorities or even the school district, I was suspended from school for three days. My family had told me I was extremely lucky, but nowadays I know luck had little to do with it. The school district had no records on me, it was only my second day at school, a few weeks after Columbine; and yet I was white, Christian, living in an upper middle class family in a gated community. Layers of privilege kept me from going to jail and being charged with a crime.
Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade clock to school. He did not threaten anyone with it; he did not make any attempts to suggest it was a bomb. He was suspended for the same three days I was; but was also led out of school in handcuffs, and charged with making a hoax bomb. His racial and ethnic background had everything to do with his mistreatment. I know this, because unlike Ahmed, I was a teenage terrorist.