By now, mostly everyone has heard of Trayvon Martin, the innocent teen who was gunned down in a Florida community. The initial handling of the case along with emerging evidence suggests that the shooting has serious racial undertones. With bigotry and profiling still common in our society, doesn’t the Trayvon Martin shooting seem like the perfect opportunity to discuss racial inequality?
Discussing ‘hot-button’ topics like the Trayvon Martin shooting can be a difficult task. It seems that in our classrooms and in life we tend to ‘dance’ around sensitive issues. From experience, it seems that ‘sensitive’ topics tend to have the greatest implications in life. Yes, it can make you feel uncomfortable, but to avoid a topic of such magnitude because of a feeling is ridiculous.
Why are some teachers reluctant to talk about race?
Unfortunately, budget cuts and layoffs are a reality for many of our schools. Certain teachers may fear talking about race because it could result in a lay-off. Some principals are very busy and have no patience for teachers who cause “trouble”, especially when budget cuts are looming. Racism is also a complex issue, one that is often filled with emotion. Instructors may avoid the topic all together to avoid the “hassle”. There are some teachers who simply don’t know how to approach such a topic.
Discussing the Trayvon Martin shooting in your school
A great way of approaching a topic like race is by generating a discussion. Schools can host a school-wide discussion by dedicating a block of periods to talk about the shooting and its racial impact. This discussion should serve as an open-forum for students to share their viewpoints and experiences on race and racism. Teachers can stimulate conversation by defining racism and stereotypes and have the students reflect. Researchers believe that educators should stress commonalities between races rather than differences to decrease emotional tension.
Some teachers and parents may protest this idea because they think it is unproductive and a waste of precious school time. I think they are wrong. The most important information you learn doesn’t come from a lesson plan or curriculum.