TA News

Filmmaker Chris Spencer Discusses “The Price of Safety” with Students

Notes from the classroom: Guest post by English teacher Joe Deffner.

Whenever we talk about race, I am always looking to bring the conversation to Vermont. I don’t want students to think of racism as a problem that exists in other places, but not in Vermont. In The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the book my students are currently studying, it seems to me that racial profiling plays a role in the traffic stop of Starr’s friend, Khalil. It also played a role in the subsequent shooting of Khalil by Officer 115.

Some people would dismiss the events of the novel as being distant from Vermont. But I don’t want my students to let Vermont off the hook. So, when I learned about the documentary The Price of Safety, I was intrigued. The film depicts events from 2016-2020 in Vergennes, Vermont. These events included the release of a study that showed that Black and Brown drivers are more likely to be stopped in Vergennes than any other locality in the state.

I reached out to the filmmaker and he was gracious enough to agree to speak with my class. What I found most interesting, and the point that the filmmaker Chris Spencer wanted to make, was that it’s not just about how many Black and Brown drivers are pulled over, but about what happens once they have been stopped. One of the findings showed that once Black and Brown drivers are pulled over, they are far more likely to be searched, but only half as likely as white drivers to be found with any sort of contraband.

Chris’s visit Ied to a robust class discussion and provided an important opportunity to connect our classroom’s reading material to what’s happening right here in Vermont.




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