History play raises questions

Students of Constitutional Law and AP Government and Politics were presented with a civil suit where an African American woman from the South Side sues a Jewish businessman from the North Shore.  She sued him over defamation stemming from accusations of stealing his watch. Out of 58 performances, Central was one of only four high schools to rule in favor of a Jewish businessman over an unemployed African American woman.

When Mrs. Jessica Hurt, chair of the Social Studies Department, scheduled the interactive courtroom drama, Defamation, for Constitutional Law and AP Government and Politics, she knew it would be a resonating experience with students. In fact, it would prove to reveal more about the student population within the school. Predominant themes within the play were racial stereotypes and their impact on actions.

After hearing from the testimonies of the plaintiff and defendant regarding their racial attitude, students were asked to deliberate. “Students were asked to defend their votes. [They] had to persuade each other, and in the end they took a final vote,” Hurt said.

After a 15 minute deliberation, students declared the defendant innocent. According to the drama’s cast and playwright, this outcome was uncommon.

Lana Elborno, senior, believes that the verdict revealed a connection in students’ mentality. ”I think that people from any fortunate community would get frustrated that people have preconceptions about [me] and think that I’m stuck up or racist because of where I grew up. I could relate more to the defendant because I identified with [the defendant’s] struggle of trying so hard to prove he wasn’t racist or prejudiced,” Elborno said.

Hurt agrees that Defamation prompted students to analyze their mindset and racial tendencies. “There are so many things about race and about these preconceived notions that we have about race and stereotyping. [We wanted] students to realize where race fits in,” Hurt said.