On the day that Proposition 187 is announced, Latino and African-American students plan a walkout. The police arrive at school, as though a crime were being committed, and arrest a few students, while others gather in a nearby park. This student decides not to walk out but, instead, to express her/his feelings about the Proposition in Ms. Gruwell’s class, where s/he feels listened to. The class discusses how the Proposition would affect illegal immigrants. This student, whose mother came to the United States illegally, feels that her/his life chances are being limited by this Proposition. The fact that “187” is the police code for murder makes this Proposition highly symbolic in the student’s eyes, representing the symbolic murder of immigrants’ opportunities.
Proposition 187 aims to prohibit illegal immigrants from accessing certain services, and is largely interpreted as a discriminatory measure against minorities—as this student describes when s/he feels personally affected by the law, even though s/he has done nothing wrong. This student’s sense of safety in Ms. Gruwell’s class demonstrates that critical conversation can be extremely powerful—even more so than symbolic protest. This shows the early success of Ms. Gruwell’s teaching methods.