Blog‎ > ‎

An Open Letter to Ahmed Mohamed - It Gets Better

posted Sep 16, 2015, 11:29 AM by Anjuan Simmons   [ updated Sep 16, 2015, 11:34 AM ]
Dear Ahmed,

While you may never see this, I wanted to write this letter to you concerning your arrest for bringing a clock you created to school. First, I am very sorry that this happened to you. You should have never been treated that way just because other people didn't understand you or your work. Unfortunately, we live in a world that often fears what is different and tries to destroy what it does not understand.

Second, I can relate to you. I, too, grew up in North Texas as a skinny brown kid who wore glasses. I, too, had a "weird" name that many found difficult to pronounce and differed starkly from the kids around me with names like "Johnny", "Jane", "Bobby", and "Becky". I, too, loved tech and creating cool things and showing others what I could do. High school was difficult for me, but, once I entered the University of Texas at Austin as an electrical engineering student, my life got much better. The craziness of high school soon faded as I explored the wonders of campus life.

Third, I want you to know that life will get better for you, too. It will get way better. You'll get better at technology because the same curiosity that drove you to create your own digital clock will drive you to engineer other things. I've met a lot of engineers in my four decades of life. All of them had varying levels of intelligence and came from a variety of social backgrounds. However, the one trait that separated the average ones from the extraordinary ones has always been curiosity. Don't let the tragedy of your arrest kill your curiosity. Take your anger at what happened to you and transform it into determination to the unleash the full potential of your technical talent.

You'll also get better at dealing with those who don't understand you. I can't promise that this will be the last time you encounter prejudice, but I can promise that you'll respond to it better next time. You'll learn to see that prejudice is not simply the output of an evil heart. Rather, it is the normal human fear of that which is unfamiliar. This will enable you to see how you can share your own humanity with those who are attacking you so that they see how they are really attacking themselves.

Finally, the world will get better. We are still grappling with a planet full of nations that were founded centuries ago yet still fight each other like playground children. However, we are making progress. The past 50 years have seen marginalized groups organize and gain rights that many believed they would never obtain. Justice follows an uneven path through our world, but, every now and then, a dreamer arises and straightens the way a bit. I hope that you become one of those dreamers.

- Anjuan