Racial profiling, anti-semitism, interfaith marriage and segregation.
Those were just a few of the underlying themes in a courtroom drama that played out Thursday before Saint Viator’s upperclassmen.
Every junior and senior, as well as Querbes Scholars, heard a highly charged defamation case brought before them by members of Canamac Productions, in a presentation called, “Defamation.”
“This play illuminates our ability to be objective—and how that is swayed by our own biases,” said Kimm Beavers, managing producer. “You can’t escape your own biases; we all have them. It’s how we look at things.”
Mrs. Eileen Manno, principal, agreed and thought Saint Viator students needed to confront their own perceptions.
“As our school becomes more diverse, we need something effective that examines these issues,” she said. “We all need reminders.”
The case involved a professional African-American woman, who was invited to the home of a successful Jewish man for a potential business project. After their meeting, he realizes that his family heirloom watch is gone.
He accuses the woman of taking the watch, which ultimately leads to a significant loss of business and she consequently sues him for defamation. Beyond the facts, the principals in the case added to its dynamics, and potentially could cloud the verdict.
The plaintiff was Ms. Regina Wade, a professional black woman from the South Side, while the defendant was Mr. Arthur Golden, a successful North Shore businessman who is Jewish.
At the end of the trial, it was the students who served as jurors.
“This case is based on stereotypes,” said junior Fiona Conneely, after the first round of voting. “I’m still undecided.”
Her classmate, Kyra Smith, said she was equally as undecided at first.
“Just because (Wade) grew up and struggled, and then got everything before becoming financially strapped, doesn’t prove she stole the watch,” Kyra said.
Members of the production company said they had staged the trial over 300 times and before more than 45,000 people. Overall, 80 percent of the audiences had sided with Wade, the plaintiff, while 20 percent had sided with the defendant, Golden.
Saint Viator students voted to clear Golden, believing that the plaintiff had not presented a preponderance of evidence or met the burden of proof. Yet, they continued to talk about it long after the case closed.
“This was such an emotional roller coaster,” said junior Jack Austin. “I kept switching sides.”