The setting of the film is in 1994, two years after the Los Angeles Riot. The riots, which were of a racial nature, were caused by the acquittal of white police officers who were caught on video brutally assaulting an unarmed black man named Rodney King (Davis 214). Reasonably, the issue of race figures prominently in the films as it tries to portray the racially charged environment of the school, which is situated in the same state where the riots took place. The film portrays accurately how the issue of race may have had a big impact on the educational system in American history. In the context of the film, the issue of race influence Gruwell’s ability to empower the students through education.
In several scenes, the audiences witness how the political bureaucracy of the school from State’s Board of Education to the school’s administration all take part in a conscious and systematic process of curtailing the educational development of the racial minorities. This is evident in the scene where it becomes clear that there is a separate version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for different versions of students. While the white students and those deemed teachable are afforded a well challenging version that is suitable for their grade, the racial minorities in Gruwell’s class receive a version that is too simple and condescends for their grade level. The declaration of these students as not being able to be taught raises already existing feeling if racial inequality and oppression.
Reasonably, the school serves as a smaller projection of the larger society at the time where racial inequality and oppression were a constant feature of everyday life. Reasonably, the school instead of acting as a platform through which the racial minority can actualize their potential and achieve some level of success, the school system instead curtails this very process and thus subjecting the student to underachieving through the process of institutional racism. The racial apparatus that feeds on the idea that the racial minorities will always do poorer is so extensive that the character of Margaret Campbell is more concerned about Gruwell’s students damaging the books rather than learning from them. Campbell and other teachers ignore the rationale that the more marginalized students feel oppressed the more they will be disenfranchised and the more their grades will suffer. The teachers seem to ignore this fact instead of complaining about the poor performances of the students without realizing their role in the problem.