Restorative Justice is a Social Justice catalyst!

I had the good fortune of speaking on a panel.  The focus was social justice, we were given the task to define this, and explain it relevant to our Pledge of Allegiance ” . . . with liberty and justice for all . . . “.  I was in the middle of the line up so I got to hear what the speakers before and after me had to say.

A simple comparison about Charity, and Social Jusitce made sense.  If I give you food, because you have none, or clothes, housing etc.  I am giving you what I choose for you to have.  That is charity.  When I focus on changing the structures that impacted your hunger, poverty, homelessness then I am doing social justice.

The notion that charity is dictated by the giver was interesting.  Even though I had a life experience of trying to give a homeless guy a burger and he said “No thanks, I just ate”.  I didn’t find the disempowered homeless guy.  I also give change at stop lights.  Some people judge and tell me they will use it to buy booze.  “So”, I say, “he’ll be happier”.  Does not giving change cure the alcoholism or mental health issue?

When I was invited to be part of Tuesday Talking Circles – for the UWRF Social Jusitce Series, it was important that ‘action’ be part of our collaboration.  This made sense, and I immediately went to the final Circle stage – Taking Action.  This means we end the Circle with a committment of change, how we will move ahead differently.

When I work with young people and teach them Restorative Justice, they self identify an issue and want to address it.  We’ve had community potlucks about issues in the park, we’ve addressed racial teasing and we’ve looked at school-wide implementation of Restorative Justice.

When you are involved in a conversation, really involved, you learn about your personal power and influence.  You want to to step up and use that in your community.  The conversation in restorative justice becomes the outcome.

I was leading a Circle and wanting to get to the plan because of the clock.  We had gone over time.  The Circle, didn’t want loose ends, they wanted the plan.  They wanted a concrete plan.  Having the experience of reading groups, I saw this, and offered up the specific number of community service hours and other specific actions.  Immediately accepted with 100% consensus.  It was a reminder for me, to allow the group to be greater than the leader.  Another interesting note as we closed out.  Everyone was happy EVERYONE else was part of the solution.  Everyone liked the plan and everyone liked the Circle.

And just as we change things to repair harm, we can address things that lead to social injustices.  We all have equal value and we should all get equal opportunity.  I love that restorative justice provides that equality in the process.