Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teaching Ferguson

Thank you to Carrie Bettinger Lopez for forwarding this message from her colleague.
The author, Professor James, would like to know how others are approaching the discussion.  We welcome your comments. 
Osamudia James
I am writing to ask all of you that teach today, regardless of what subject you teach, to consider acknowledging Ferguson and the jury's return of 'no true bill' in your classrooms today.  I am not asking you to agree or disagree with the jury's return, but rather to simply acknowledge the issues that Ferguson necessarily implicates, and to ask students to consider what it means when perceptions of the justice system differ so starkly by race. 
As we all know, there will be many students in our classrooms today who come from communities that do not believe they can trust law enforcement, and for them, the failure to indict will be another reminder that they don't see access to justice in their communities; a failure to discuss it in law school will be a signal that their concerns are not valid here.  For many other students, they will be under the misimpression that although tragic, the issues that Ferguson implicates are neither their issues nor their problems, and that ensuring access to justice for all is merely the work of people of color, or civil rights attorneys, or lefty law professors.  Access to justice, however, is an issue for all of our students, and as a law school, we are called to help them reflect deeply and critically on the legal system they will be navigating in just a few short years.  
I know many of you already think very deeply about your pedagogy and will, in fact, be addressing Ferguson today.  I write, therefore, to support you in those efforts, and to encourage more of us to broach Ferguson with our students today.  
Kind Regards,
Osamudia James
Professor of Law 
University of Miami School of Law

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