In late April of 1992, four police officers were acquitted of beating a black man named Rodney King. (For those of you who do not remember the original incident, Google "Can't we all just get along?"). Riots followed the verdict, and I watched the footage in disbelief. A random white man was pulled from his vehicle, held to the ground, and beaten senseless. Looting, fires, beatings, and death reigned.
I was 23 and in my first year teaching English and newspaper journalism at a 97% black urban high school. My students and I had discussed the trial, had healthy debates, and written about it. The day following the start of the riots, my one white student, a freshman boy, was not at school. Dentist appointment my foot.
I don't remember a lot about that day except the one empty seat. What I'm thinking of now, over 21 years later, is Why didn't something this dramatic happen over the Trayvon Martin case?
BACK INTO TEACHER MODE: There is so much to be done!!
- Comparison/contrast essay on reactions to the two cases (Lots of background knowledge required; students would need to do the legwork outside of class.)
- Re-writing closing arguments
- Using the trials to teach the importance of evidence
- Research paper on the trial, riots, black/police conflicts, etc.
- Pro/Con discussion about the riots
- Pull in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law somehow