(No) Mistakes Were Made

2015 Sep 21

When developing programs, a logical fallacy that manifests often is to want to continue pouring your time and resources down a path you’ve already taken and leads you to misery and your users to screaming, instead of another path that “everybody else” seems to think would be better. Change is a little bit scary.

Recently, a 14-year-old kid in Texas was arrested because he brought a clock he assembled himself to his school. You might have heard about him - his name is Ahmed and (perhaps not) coincidentally, he’s also brown. Refer to all the articles others wrote about the whole story. Contrary to habit, we’re not here today to post facts.

This kid’s school knew right away the clock wasn’t a bomb. I refuse to believe the teachers in Texas are this stupid. They knew, but at the same time they were afraid. And they were mad that a 14-year-old kid, which they were already afraid of because of his skin and his heritage, made them afraid. From there on, it was a slippery slope:

They almost immediately switched the narrative in their head that it must be a bomb hoax. Apparently the school principal tried to bully the kid into confessing exactly that, that he brought the clock to incite fear.

Of course the kid wouldn’t confess - because that’s not what he did - and instead of saying “Oh, OK”, they escalated by bringing the police in to intimidate him further.

The police interrogated them while denying his parents being present, which is apparently illegal in the US. They found no reason to charge him with either having a bomb, or performing some hoax. Around the same time, the principal was sending out this ridiculous letter / press release to double down on the school’s bad choices, and the mayor did the same supporting everyone but the brown kid.

So what actually happened is something we’ve all come across as a kid. They were unreasonably afraid, and couldn’t / wouldn’t admit it, so they contorted all reason in order to make their choices seem reasonable, and like they were acting prudently and reasonably. The assumption being nobody’s allowed to admit a mistake, because these are adults, in charge of other actual people, and they’re not allowed to be afraid, especially of nothing at all, because that’s a sign of weakness.

We’ve all done this. We said a white lie, and then doubled down upon it, and with every additional lie the whole story gets so ludicrous but the cost of saying “I’m lying this whole time” seems so big, that telling another lie seems like the only way out. And anyway, we can forgive lying kids. But not people in charge of taking care of kids.

PS. In case it’s not obvious, there’s nothing to forgive if one’s afraid.

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Tagged : rant