Regardless of one's stance in these cases, the events point to a huge and problematic divide in society. When the same events and, indeed, even views on justice, itself, are viewed by different groups of people in completely different ways, it is a serious cause for concern, especially given the importance of the issues involved. "Race" and class seem to figure prominently in this polarization, but not entirely.
And, I'm sure, the way these issues are discussed in different classrooms across America will speak to a great divide. In our classroom discussion the other day, I chose to pose questions around this divide and the reasons for its existence, rather than the specifics of the two cases. When I first started teaching in NYC, I worked in Flushing. The Rodney King decision was soon handed down. Although Los Angeles lies about as distant from New York as any other point geographically imaginable within the continental U.S., the students felt it sharply. It struck close to home. There were very strong opinions that needed to be voiced. It would not have been possible to disregard them.
In other classrooms, the emotions run less strong. Sometimes they may be present, but it is not as imperative that they are voiced. And, then, there will be some students in classrooms who fail to follow the events for one reason or another or lack interest. We had a good discussion in my current classrooms, but it was far less heated, I am sure, than in other rooms across the City. If anything, these recent events not only speak to how multiple and conflicting truths can coexist for different people in one society and possibly eat at it, but also to how diverse and divergent are the needs of different communities.