Our Middle School Model UN class was just wrapping up a simulation of a crisis conference on the Ebola epidemic. Present, in the simulation, were “representatives” from Doctors without Borders, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and others. However, the day after the Ferguson Grand Jury decision was rendered, these civic-minded students wanted to stop a different epidemic: that of racism in the United States.
We diverted energy from discussion of bullets fired and “he said/she said” to discuss larger, societal issues. We used the links below to ponder the Ferguson case and decision. We share them with you in hopes you will follow up with your students—or perhaps with your families at the Thanksgiving table and beyond.
In our class we focused on these questions for discussion, and we asked students to continue conversations at home with family:
1. Where is the line between self-protection and protection of the public and murder? At what point is a police officer justified in drawing his weapon in order to enforce the law? In other countries are police officers armed? To what extent?
2. Are U.S. police departments using racial profiling at the expense of the safety of black youth? Does data support this assertion? Are any police departments building trusting relationships among their various communities? How can this be done?
3. Why are protesters so angry about the ruling? What has happened in Ferguson prior to this event? Is there a history of institutionalized racism in the U.S. that needs to be investigated? What should our next actions be to stop racism in our communities?
We offer our hopes for a world in which all children and adults are safe and valued, a world in which we stop the epidemic of racism.
LINKS FOR DISCUSSION:
2. Ferguson is About Us Too: A Call to Explore our Communities: This article from National Council for the Social Studies provides numerous questions to help analyze our own communities as well as detailed date on Ferguson’s racial make-up and police stops and arrests broken down by race.
3. 538 Blog: It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did: The 538 Blog explains data on grand jury rulings -- especially as they apply in cases involving police officers.
4. Newsweek: How America's Police Became an Army: Militarization of US Police Departments: Where have all these armored vehicles come from? The military-industrial complex is hard at work, distributing armored vehicles to police department who may not want them.
5. Economist: How Foot Patrols Keep Tough Neighbourhoods Safer: Economist article on foot patrols in Philadelphia, one example of policing designed to integrate officers into neighborhoods.
6. The ONION: Sometimes Unfortunate Things Happen In The Heat Of A 400-Year-Old Legacy Of Racism: Does stinging satire help us deal with the tragic results of the 400-year-old legacy of African enslavement and racism in the Americas? Does this article cross the line or tell it like it is?