(Updated from 01/08/2015)
I sometimes take unpopular positions. That’s part of being a lawyer, but it’s also an effective way of learning what is in our blind spots. As I re-read this post in response to comments made by panelists at a Restorative Justice Forum several years ago, I could look more compassionately at the process of those panelists. We’re all still learning to navigate racism in the United States. It’s still going to be uncomfortable and messy. I am still going to use the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process to guide my actions toward unity.
Action One: Define the Conflict
I still disagree with people who think it’s justified to be racist, as long as it’s not against certain minorities.
Action Two: Identify the Interests
I want a unified world culture in which we celebrate our differences and connect through our commonalities (which are far greater than our differences).
I thought the panelists would be loving and want what I want. Instead I heard comments about my privileged life, a white process, and a book for white people. I was hurt and felt defensive, but I am learning to listen and understand.
I believed those trained in mediation would see beyond race, gender, class, and other outward appearances. I guess I expected them to be super-human, which wasn’t fair of me.
I wish we could all refer to each other as human and use our language to practice unity, not further division.
I think the panelists genuinely wanted to educate us, although I’m not convinced it was about RJ. Perhaps they used the panel to raise what seemed at the time to be different issues. They probably thought I and other white people in the audience didn’t understand because we’ve probably never had experiences similar to those they see in their lives and their clients’ lives. Maybe they were right. The pain was palpable–theirs and mine. As I’ve healed, I’ve been more open to the comments that made me uncomfortable.
Action Three: Play with the Possibilities
If I could have this conflict resolve in any way possible, all humans would stop limiting and isolating each other based on race (among other characteristics, too, but I am focused on race for now). We would stop blaming living people for the sins of dead people who look like them. We would be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to be the good, loving people we actually are–until there is actual evidence that suggests we erred. Then, there would be a fair process by which we could be accountable for our errors, make amends, and create better futures for ourselves and everyone involved. That’s what I still believe Restorative Justice is all about.
Action four: Create the Future
I am committing to be part of the solution, although I still have much to learn, even seven years after the original post.
- I will continue to speak up about racism.
- I will continue to examine my own prejudices and break free from them.
- I will (eventually) write my genealogy/history book discussing how limited our knowledge of history is based on what we learned in school and how closely we are related in DNA, regardless of race.
Action Five: Stay on PARR
This is not an easy process for a human, but I trust my brain’s neuro-plasticity–and yours. We can and will end this hateful construct.