Mini Course on Racial Injustice Held at DMAE in January

Mini-Course at DMAE “Open Your Eyes”

Art by Serena Isahak

Just in time for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Judy Aronson opened her second “Open Your Eyes” course to interested students, community members and alumni. “Open Your Eyes” was created as a mini-course by Ms. Aronson to address the development and presence of systemic racism in America shortly after the horrific murder of George Floyd. 

The first “Open Your Eyes” course was a week-long seminar focused on criminal justice in America. Similarly, the January 2021 course focused on racial inequality. 

“I want my students to feel comfortable having these difficult conversations. I want them to feel like they have the confidence, the reasoning skills, and the empathy. I want them to feel like they have everything it takes to have an eye-opening conversation,” AP U.S. History teacher Ms. Aronson said.

Attendees viewed the documentary “13th” by Ava DuVernay which discussed the nation’s flawed prison system as the prison population in America is disproportionately composed of African Americans. The title refers to the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery throughout the U.S. and ended involuntary servitude. In the film Ms. DuVernay exposes how the criminal justice system represents a loophole to the 13th Amendment in that slavery is “acceptable” in the legal form of disproportionate criminal punishment of black men and contributes to ongoing racism. After viewing the film, participants discussed ideas and what they learned from the film in breakout rooms. 

I had a great time learning about the topic of criminal justice because a lot of the information is shocking and a lot of the time it isn’t obvious until it is pointed out.”

— Danny Liu

“I had a great time learning about the topic of criminal justice because a lot of the information is shocking and a lot of the time it isn’t obvious until it is pointed out. The discussions were also insightful because I got to understand the different perspectives of people,” junior Danny Liu commented thoughtfully.

Students learned the shocking statistic, that although the U.S. only has 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s prisoners. They also learned about historical events over time that contributed to stereotypes of black men including misconceptions about behavior, segregated bathrooms, Emmett Till’s lynching in 1955 and Trayvon Marin’s death all of which have led to the Black Lives Matter movement. They also considered how the education and income of a parent determines the opportunities a child can have as well as de facto segregation in communities like Englewood.

Approximately 50 students joined the call and 38 of them completed the entire 5-day training and watched the whole video according to Ms. Aronson. Each of those students was issued a certificate of completion from the Dr. John  Grieco Scholarship Fund. The certificates featured a quote from Ava DuVernay, which stated, “If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.” 

Ms. Aronson emphasized the importance of learning as opposed to winning when engaging in eye-opening talks.

“It shouldn’t be about standing your ground,” explained Ms. Aronson passionately. It should be about stepping on new ground,” she concluded.