Teaching About Trayvon

People of conscience are outraged and saddened over the acquittal of George Zimmerman last Saturday—and the conviction of Trayvon Martin. We need to find ways to engage our students in reflecting on the meaning of Trayvon Martin’s murder. Here are some helpful reflections that will provide a starting place.

Rethinking Schools associate editor Jesse Hagopian wrote the following on his blog I Am an Educator:

Want to close the so-called “achievement gap?”

This gap–better described as the opportunity gap–would quickly narrow if standards were added about analyzing the continuity of the American judicial system in excluding Black jurors and acquitting people who murder African Americans–from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin and beyond.

When you teach students about the major issues affecting their lives, and allow them to use the curriculum to help them solve these problems, you see education come alive for all students. The fact that you can’t imagine a standard that addresses institutional racism in America being added to the Common Core State Standards is a clear indication that they are not interested in truly raising the achievement of all.

This video of a speech I gave in the wake of Trayvon’s murder by George Zimmerman could serve as an opening lesson in the unit:

…followed by this lesson from Linda Christensen at Rethinking Schools, The Danger of a Single Story.”

From Bree Picower (friend of Rethinking Schools, co-editor of Planning to Change the World, and Assistant Professor at Montclair State University), “On Juror B37 and the Willfully Passive Consumption of White Supremacy.”

“Who but white women could have the privilege of not paying attention to a case that terrorizes the daily lived experience of people of Color? Who but white women could be so willfully ignorant of the world around us?”

From Bill Moyers, “Trayvon Martin Murder Trial Reactions.”

Curated excerpts from some of the “more thought-provoking posts” seen since Saturday night.

From Common Dreams (and reposted from The New Yorker), “Zimmerman, Not Guilty: Blood on the Leaves,” by Jelani Cobb

“The most damning element here is not that George Zimmerman was found not guilty: it’s the bitter knowledge that Trayvon Martin was found guilty.”

From ColorLines, “Five Myths About Crime in Black America—and the Statistical Truths, ” by Hatty Lee and Shani O. Hilton

A thoughtful myth-busting infographic.

From Bernice Johnson Reagon, “Ella’s Song” lyrics.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes…

From the Teacher Action Group in Philadelphia, “In Response to the Verdict

“The deep racism and historic inequality of our legal system is mirrored in the systemic inequality of our education system.”

From Catalyst Project, “Black Lives Matter: Take Actions and Keep Going

“We must mount a clear, massive challenge to the system which pronounced Trayvon Martin’s life so insignificant that his death didn’t even legally constitute manslaughter.”

2 thoughts on “Teaching About Trayvon

  1. Here are a few other cases to include in the discussion: Joshua Chellew, Christopher Cervini, Channon Christian, Christopher Newsom, Ed Cooper. What about Layla Stewart? Sterling Sims? Victor Damian? Ezequiel Velasquez? Brandon Milliner?

    It would also be wise to include a discussion of statistics. What proportion of the black population commits murder? What proportion of other races commits murder? Why? Statistics are readily available for the country and for individual population centers.

    People of conscience get the facts before inflaming others who are equally misinformed.

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