Young Black Men

via Colorlines

I used to teach a graduate course in Constitutional Law for Political Science and Justice Studies students. The last three times I taught the course, I was the sole person in the room who was not African-American or Latino/Hispanic. It makes teaching Brown vs. Board of Education a wholly different experience than learning it at Georgetown University Law Center.

It gets even more striking when we move into the unit on 4th Amendment law and the rights of criminal suspects generally. My students are graduate students, most of them working full or part time. Often parents, but generally still very young. As all of them learn the nuances of their rights, the men, uniformly, have a personal anecdote which demonstrates how false the protections I am teaching them are.

Usually by the second class, I interject only now and again, to draw attention to a case that says why what they are describing is not constitutionally-permissible or ask a question about why the practice is so divorced from their experience. The students always have considered answers and they always have strong opinions, but what strikes me is how–like the students in the video–they never seem enraged.

I suppose it’s not really striking–after all, rage is out of place in the classroom, even when the discussion is passionate or the topic is injustice. I suppose my my surprise is a mark of my privilege.

Why are we still living in this world?

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