Doing Science While Black

Most of you are probably familiar with driving while black; being pulled over not because you did something wrong but because of the color of your skin.  Here may be the first case of doing science while black.

A 16 year old black girl, Kiera Wilmot,  performed a simple science experiment (mixing toilet bowl cleaner with strips of aluminum foil) that caused a small noise and a bit of smoke and was expelled from school.  School administrators issued a statement saying that Kiera needed to learn that actions have consequences.  Not only that, she has been charged by the district attorney with a felony as an adult for performing this incredibly common experiment.  Talk about a gross overreaction!

The same district attorney recently declined to press charges against a white boy who deliberately pointed a BB gun at his brother and pulled the trigger killing his brother.  The boy thought the BB gun wasn’t loaded.  This, in the mind of the DA was just a tragic accident.  Which it certainly was.  That boy is going to have to live with the fact that he killed his brother for the rest of his life.  Not filing charges was absolutely the correct call.

But why the disparity?  Why charge a 16 year old black girl with a felony when no one was injured when a 13 year old white boy actually killed someone and was not charged?  Is a three years difference in age grounds for handling these two cases differently?  If he did the same thing when he was 16 would he have been charged with murder?

Was Kiera’s experiment dangerous?  Very mildly.  Should she have performed this experiment without supervision?  Definitely not.  But now she’s going to be scarred for life for the simple act of having a bit of inquisitiveness.

Lesson learned?  Experimenting bad!  Doing exactly as you’re told at all times and draconian results if you don’t, good!

Kids do stupid things.  This is a feature, not a bug.  Overreacting to their stupidness dulls their curiosity.  Show me a kid that isn’t allowed to do stupid things and I’ll show you a boring adult.

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