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Community justice: Not to you or for you, but with you

November 18, 2009

Restorative practices are not a means
to do something to someone or even for them in order to facilitate constructive
changes. Restorative justice and restorative practices are intended to be a
multi-party transformation to facilitate healing and community safety. But to
succeed, authentic community voices must be at the table. We understood that
the racism table was one that was too painful and unsafe for many people, and
we questioned ourselves on how much of an investment we could afford to make
without moving too far off the RCF’s mission. As Karen Waters commented, “If
you have to ask for an apology, what good is it?” She later stated that some
form of restitution would need to be considered in order to make the process
meaningful. There have been noble efforts by individuals in our community to
attempt to address racism, but when the RCF looked at the economic bottom line
for families, we did not see promising results…..

Looking for greater confidence on the
matter, I attended a presentation by Hillel Levine, director of the
International Center for Conciliation (ICfC). Professor Levine confirmed for me
the necessity for people to address historical cultural traumas in order to
move forward on immediate matters that require sustained trust and cooperation.
I am still in the sharing stages of working with the information I gleaned from
that workshop. Levine’s insights on working with memorized trauma and its
energy for continuing social traumas is worth a separate study itself. For more
information, you can find the ICfC’s website at

Revalorization of a community through
story-telling, ritual and shared fundamental interconnections with other
community members has a way of melting away the sting of public policies that
limit people. While we can individually support such efforts, racial reconciliation
work is going to need to take a greater leap with strategic planning and a
long-term commitment from government, business and faith community leadership.
And it will be critically important to recruit and support young black leaders
in this work if we are to overtake generational economic losses.

In my most recent conversation with
EMU/CJP’s Associate Director Amy Potter, who had just returned from doing
post-war trauma healing work in Sierra Leone, she said that her reconciliation
work in Africa is evolving by listening to the invested needs of each group.
She noted four basic principles:

  1. There must be space for

  2. Justice must be served;

  3. As people meet together, they need
    to be open to mercy not just retribution; and

  4. A greater peace (or security) must
    be a primary goal of the work together.

I believe that these four principles
could help guide most discussions about social justice and racism…..

Read the whole article.


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