Future Generation Reflects on Current Events

Posted December 5, 2014

The beauty of teaching is watching your students engage with the world around them in a new way.

The gut-wrenching part is when that involves 15 and 16 year old students being faced with a reality like we one we’ve seen the ugly side of these past few weeks. With the recent grand jury decision on Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the Rolling Stone article on the sexual assault on UVA’s campus, my students have had to spend more time than I would ever like thinking about truly disturbing truths about our country.

However, I was impressed by the way in which they addressed the ongoing issues with maturity, level-headedness, and an appropriate level of outrage and naivety, given their age.

Since the hope for many teachers and parents (which I am not) is that the younger generation will learn from our mistakes and experiences and “make the world a better place,” I thought I would share some of the thoughts my 10th and 11th grade students expressed this week. (Obviously I’m not including their names or any identifying pieces of information because I can’t legally do so)

Race Relations

“As a country that often calls itself “the best country in the world,” we as Americans should feel shocked, disappointed and ashamed that events like these are still happening in our country. The only way to combat these two negative aspects of our culture is through education.”

“Whenever cases like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown show up, the first thing that the media does is talk about the possibly illegal things the person was doing prior to their death. They ruin the reputation of the victim to imply that it was not a surprise the victim went through that situation… We also always seem to be hooked on the thought that the police officer killed the person because he was black, and this is also a stereotype that is constantly associated with police officers. Many believe that racism is practically over… Racism, to me, is no longer a conscious act in many cases. I personally believe that Office Darren Wilson is not a racist, but our society has instilled so many stereotypes into our minds that, even if we are not prejudiced, these thoughts appear into our heads whenever you meet someone of a certain race.”

“What else can be done when, in the time of five months, about three or four unjustified murders or violent actions have occurred without reprimanding the guilty? How can we live in a nation where [people] are being killed while begging officers to stop? How will children look up to these policemen? These men who are suppose to protect. Yes, America has suffered terribly with 9/11 and these shootings, but does that mean that we should live in constant terror that a person might take his gun out and shoot a whole campus?”

“We need to understand our differences and make compromises. We also need races to forgive each other for the past. We cannot ‘progress'” as a country if we are still being held back by tension that is hundreds of years old. The past is the past, all that matters is the future.”

“Stop & Frisk is a program in NY where the police can stop and search you if your behavior was deemed ‘suspicious’: 34% of the NYC pop. is White; they only account for 10% of stops. 23% of the NYC pop. is Black; they account for 52% [statistics vary]. Some say that race is not the problem, but numbers don’t lie.”

“The cycle is vicious. The reason people are forced to [commit crimes] is because of poverty; the system was designed to fail them… these children go to school, get a bad education, and either end up dropping out and doing something illegal, which then goes back to the point of them getting arrested and going to prison and having [no] future, or just ending up [in and out] of detention facilities. The fact of the matter is that black people were, for the most part, designed to fail in this country and thats because of the system built around them. Some black people are lucky enough to become successful but, for the most part, they aren’t. So these children end up committing crimes or doing stupid stuff and that creates an image, which young African-Americans can be victim of, like the Central Park 5, which becomes a stereotype, which then causes the police to unjustly believe that all are the same and brings on things like unjustified police violence. So, the fact of the matter is black people are to blame and so are white people, but the system is the biggest problem. The communities we live in and the environment that we are brought up in are the problems as to why we can’t do better.”

“We cannot keep pretending that ‘racism is dead’ because the Mike Brown and Eric Garner situations prove otherwise. We need to be indicting guilty people, even if they are police officers. I personally believe that peaceful protest can lead to change but that would take a very long time. I think that, ultimately, only education can change the thoughts of an entire nation. If change is to happen then we first need to realize that there is a problem.”

“The problem rests with the ignorant minority who still preach racial division and hierarchy of sexes because that’s the way they’ve been taught to think. The government should launch campaigns to raise awareness about equality and thus remove the ingrained prejudice of the ignorant. In what concerns police brutality, a few solutions come to mind:
1) One should vote against politicians who condone, or do not even address the issue, of police brutality.
2) People should get involved in peaceful protests so that their voices get heard.
3) If one has been seriously violated by the police, one should take legal action.
4) The last idea would be to talk about incidents of police brutality on social media. The most effective way of doing so would be by posting video in which police brutality is clearly depicted. This would make the police accountable for their action, as it did it the Eric Garner incident.” [posted before grand jury verdict was announced]

“I disagree with the fact that the solution to these ongoing instances of racial bias, police aggression, or sexual assault is simply a better education and awareness. The problem is not that these criminals aren’t aware of people’s feelings or possibility of innocence, no matter what their skin color is. These people are selfish and inconsiderate. The problem is that everyone seems to be doing it and no one is getting punished. This greatly diminishes the gravity of the situations. I think the only way to eradicate these situations is to acknowledge them clearly, stop ignoring them, and severely punishing anyone who commits these acts.”


Comments on Sexual Assault/Harassment

“There are many reasons why men act the way they do sexually, but the biggest factor is their surroundings and the influence of others… Men feel the need to be powerful and, in some way, in control of the situation. Therefore, their machismo leads them to do terrible things, such as rape. The relationship between men and power has been around in our culture for centuries, and it is why these type of situations are going on nowadays.”

“I disagree with the boys [in the class] when they say that the city is much safer nowadays and that women are in much less danger. Women all share this same fear and are forced to face the menace every day, whether you all see it or not. Just like black people have to endure racism and just go along with the injustice and prejudice, women have to endure sexism and assaults by ignoring it, and  always turning the other cheek.”

“The world can be very misogynistic. This is one factor that explains the high incidence of sexual assault against female students on college campuses. In another example, in football culture there are so many examples of players violently or sexually assaulting women, as we see with the Ray Rice situation. Yet, in most cases, these players get off with only a brief suspension from the game or a slap on the risk. This is because it is a culture that values physical dominance and prowess. In some of the literature we have read this year, such as Chronicle of a Death Foretold, women are seen as only sexual objects or baby-makers. That the classic, but pejorative, view of women still exists is one factor that accounts for ongoing problems women continue to face today.”

“Sexuality varies from one culture to another; this is not only for sexuality but for alcohol as well. For example, the drinking age in France is 18 years old, but in America it’s 21. By the time Americans get the college, on their first day of “freedom,” about one half of the students have an alcohol intoxication [not based on stated facts]. The same goes for sexuality. In many countries, sexuality is seen as taboo, a subject or conversation topic that should be avoided. This leads to men becoming aggressive and violent because they do not know how to handle their anger or their desire for women.”

“The real problem is the education that is implemented into young males’ minds before college. They have that feeling that college will be the best four years of their life and that they will be able to do anything they want. They have not been educated on any of those concerns and are, in most cases, immature. This is endorsed by the sudden separation from their parents and the amount of partying the image of college provides, even if it is not always the case.”

“People or institutions interpret sexual assault in different way,: some consider it a crime that should be punished, while others just consider it a small offense. I think that the consequences of this act should be strict and apply to everybody. If someone commits this crime, his punishment should not only be from a school perspective but from a societal one. Expelling someone and letting him apply to other school isn’t serious enough.  The government should create strict laws about this. I think that we, as a culture and a nation, should be shocked that such things happen in a country as liberal and developed as the United States.”

“I think that there are less violent or active [sexual] crimes so to speak [in NYC now]. Nonetheless, there are a lot of ”passive” crimes. Women are victims of cat-calling and harassment on the street on a daily basis. Although things have changed for the better, there are still issues that need to be addressed. I think that because the past violence [in NYC] was so terrible, when it was finally controlled, the other underlying issues became minor. Now that we have less problems with gangs, drugs and murders [in NYC] we should take the opportunity to resolve the other issues. The fact that I feel uncomfortable walking in the streets is a reality that a lot of women go through, but that can be avoided.”