kevin-mcdonald_web.jpgI have no problem with the Miami Heat basketball players wearing hoodies to show their solidarity with other outraged citizens over the murder of Trayvon Martin.  I also don’t have any issues with the Rev. Al Sharpton spearheading a rally in Sanford that brought out thousands of people.  I am perfectly fine with other marches and community forums that are taking place nationwide.

I do, however, have a problem with students walking out of class to protest this gross injustice.  What happened to Trayvon sickens me to my stomach. It should have never happened.  But what’s even more disturbing is the lack of an arrest of George Zimmerman, the perpetrator, the instigator, the rogue watchman who saw Trayvon as a thug in a hoodie, a menace to society. So I do understand the ire and angst that many teenagers have.

But such a senseless tragedy should not have prompted hundreds of students from Carol City High School in Miami Gardens to spill out into the sidewalks and streets when they could have easily participated in a school-sanctioned demonstration on campus.

In fact, students from several South Florida schools, including Miami Central High, Miami Edison High and William H. Turner High walked out of class on a mission to not only impel the authorities in Sanford to do the right thing in bringing Zimmerman to justice but to also send a message to law enforcement agencies in their own communities that injustice of any kind will not be tolerated.

I commend their spirit but why forgo the lessons in math, English, American History and other classes when a good education is the very thing our youth need to fight the societal gangrene of racial prejudice and discrimination?

Despite the election of the nation’s first African-American president in Barack Obama, there are still too many people in the land of the free and the home of the brave who view African-American boys and men as petulant pariahs with a penchant for trouble.  So, instead of walking out of class, why not walk into a library?  Why not read and gain a greater understanding as to why race is still a hot-button issue?

One book that readily comes to mind is Being a Black Man: At the Corner of Progress and Peril by several Washington Post staff writers. The collection of essays about the tribulations and triumphs of several men of color in the Washington area examines how far black men have come as a whole since the Million Man March.

Another good read is Nathan McCall’s autobiography Makes Me Wanna Holler. He takes the reader on a journey that details his early years of being a hustler on the streets in Portsmouth, Va., to his arrest for armed robbery and time in prison, to his awakening, rehabilitation and eventual rise to becoming a reporter in the newsrooms of The Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Post. McCall currently works as a senior lecturer in the department of African American Studies at Emory University.

There are other good reads, as well, but today’s students need to enrich their minds via books and use the power of the pen to convey their stories, ideas and aspirations.  The best way to protest is not by walking out but by becoming an educated, sentient human being who has the ethical build to make this world a better place. That’s the type of demonstration we need right now more than ever.

Kevin McDonald is a Tampa native who has been teaching English in the Palm Beach County School District since 2001.

Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School

REMEMBERING: Students at Dr. Michael Krop High in North Miami take part in a prayer vigil Monday at the school.