An angry crowd yelling in the streets of Boston.
Intimidating officers trying to keep the peace, but sometimes making things worse.
People calling for change, but not sure how to get there.
This is what I experienced last night at the “Indict America” protest, but I could be talking about the Boston Massacre, back in 1770. At that time, officers ending up opening fire on a group of protesters, killing five innocent people. The colonists just wanted to express their concern over Parliament’s latest policies and some taxes they didn’t like.
Our 5th and 6th graders have been studying these events that led up to the American Revolution. They just seem like events in a history book, until you turn on the news. Americans are protesting in the streets again, only this time, videos are being tweated, Facebooked, YouTubed, and more. I don’t claim to have any answers, but last night this teacher joined the protests, calling on our country to do something about racism in our justice system. Here’s my contribution to the media blitz:
As we discussed in class, I was careful to be safe, but there were scary moments last night. People are confused and angry that Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted, and nobody knows exactly why. People are upset that Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed. Our students had a lot to say about this issue:
- “For self defense, you don’t have to shoot someone in the head.”
- “If a black police shot a white man, would the police go to jail?”
- “Cops are supposed to help citizens not kill or even hurt unless they are doing something bad.”
- “I think the grand jury was right to not put him on trial because a police officer should have the knowledge on not to shoot someone for no reason. It was probably for a very good reason.”
- “In my opinion, if you kill someone, no matter who you are, you should go to trial.”
- “We can have the police have 2 guns, one with rubber bullets for people that aren’t armed, and real guns for people that are armed.”
- “Michael Brown also might have looked like a suspect from a robbery, but there isn’t a reason to kill him even if he did rob a store.”
- “I feel that this is intolerable since he shot somebody 6 TIMES!!! One shot is self defense, not 6.”
- “To be violent, it causes more even worse things to happen. Like in the Boston Massacre the Patriots were angry at the king for bringing in soldiers so they did something small that agitated the soldiers so they shot and killed 5 people.”
As you can see, our students have a lot of thoughts about this one case, which unfortunately, is one of many situations of police brutality against black people.
So, what can we learn from history?
Change takes time. The colonists gathered a group of about 5,000 men to discuss the tea taxes before a group assembled to dump 340 crates of imported tea off the ship. Our students recently got to reenact these events at the Boston Tea Party Museum. As you’ll see in this video, some of the same emotions people feel today were probably present back then too:
The colonists were not able to solve their problems peacefully. It got worse than just destruction of tea. Several years later, this issue turned to war, with the first British soldiers losing their lives at the Old North Bridge in Concord.
Today, we stand on that bridge, and remember the “shot heard ’round the world.” Those 6 shots fired in Ferguson, Missouri will also be remembered for many years to come.
The American Revolution wasn’t fought because of taxes, but so that we have the rights we have today. We have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, allowing us to gather and express our views, whatever they may be. Last night, I was very thankful to live in a country where people can come together to peacefully express their views.
Whatever happens next will not be only about Mike Brown or Darren Wilson. It’s hard to predict what’s next. Are we smart enough to figure out how to make change happen without violence? There’s a lot of young people counting on us to make sure our country’s justice system is actually just.
This Thanksgiving, be thankful for your voice. Be thankful for your community. Together, let’s use our voices to do something good.