Restorative Justice and Lasting Peace

re·stor·a·tive jus·tice

noun

1.  a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.

(Oxford Languages)

I want to expand upon these words, in looking at a future vision of the United States. 

The victims are many!   George Floyd is a clear example.   A young Black man was murdered through the choke hold of a white policeman, while other policemen stood by.   Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was openly gay.    Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Ashley Judd are all rape survivors.

I often hear the words: “racism was a major problem that was ended by the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s.   Now, we have a few bad apples, not a systemic problem.”

Rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence and child abuse were huge problems, little talked about until the 1970’s and 1980’s.   Many women, children, and men continue to be victimized.  

I’ve not heard a single case of a famous man “coming clean” about his past exploitation, until he’s been “outed” by others (usually some of his victims).   Some examples of men “outed” are:  Matt Lauer, Senator Al Franken, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Cosby.

Inequality is both a racial and class issue in the U.S. 

A Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis report shows this clearly.

Wealth inequality in America has grown tremendously from 1989 to 2016, to the point where the top 10% of families ranked by household wealth (with at least $1.2 million in net worth) own 77% of the wealth “pie.” The bottom half of families ranked by household wealth (with $97,000 or less in net worth) own only 1% of the pie.   …  In 2016, the typical white family had about 10 times the wealth of the typical black family and about 7.5 times the wealth of the typical Hispanic family.   https://www.stlouisfed.org/open-vault/2019/august/wealth-inequality-in-america-facts-figures

Another source: Second quarter 2019 Total Family Asset Figures by Percentiles: (trillions):

Top 1% =   $35.5 = 28.2 % of Total

90-99th% = $46.2 = 36.6 %

50-90th    = $36.9 = 29.3 %

0.01-50th = $ 7.5  =   4.7%

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-09/one-percenters-close-to-surpassing-wealth-of-u-s-middle-class

Residential segregation is one way that Black (and LatinX) People remain second class citizens in the U.S.

An analysis of U.S. Census Data from 2013–17 found that the “dissimilarity index” between blacks and non-Hispanic whites for metropolitan areas was 0.526 for the median area—meaning that 52.6 percent of African Americans or whites would have to move for the area to be fully integrated. 

A black family that earns $157,000 per year is less likely to qualify for a prime loan than is a white family earning $40,000 per year, which means that white families can borrow heavily at favorable rates, while black families are far less likely to receive a safe, fair loan product.48

Black–white racial segregation, deliberately created by whites over decades to subjugate black people, continues to thwart opportunities for millions of African Americans. Of the many ways in which American society unfairly treats black people, the continued segregation of residential areas remains a central source of racial inequality.

 https://tcf.org/content/report/attacking-black-white-opportunity-gap-comes-residential-segregation/?agreed=1

The writing (noted above) provides detailed data and quotes from authors and researchers.  It discusses residential and school segregation, and related disparities in income and net worth.

High school  attendance in my home town Chicago is instructive.  Chicago’s population is:

Asian = 6.6%

Black = 29.9%

LatinX = 28.8%

White = 50.05 (33.3 non-LatinX)%

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/chicagocityillinois

The Chicago Public Schools are

(October 5, 2020- www.cps.edu):

Asian = 4.3%

Black = 35.8%

LatinX = 46.7%

White = 10.95%

 Some Individual High Schools (% by race/% low income):

Non-Selective Enrollment

Race

%

% Low Income

Clemente

L

92.2

80.5

Foreman

L

75.3

89.9

Harlan

B

98.7

86.5

Hirsch

B

99

89.6

Hubbard

L

92.3

87

Infinity

L

94.1

72.9

King

B

96.7

94.01

Marshall

B

97.3

95.9

 

Selective Enrollment High Schools:

A

B

L

W

% Low Income

Jones

14.6

11.3

29

40.7

34.8

Lane

10.4

6.6

37.3

39.1

38.4

Northside

19.4

5.4

30.4

31.1

39

Payton

19.1

10

21.7

44.2

28,6

Whitney Young

21.4

18.5

28.3

26.1

35

The statistics above speak for themselves!

 School segregation was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1954.   In the 1960’s and 1970’s laws were passed to bring about “equality.  Over time it became apparent that “neighborhood schools” meant segregated white and Black schools.  

Many urban school districts had so few white students (while suburban districts had few Black students), that plans needed to require city/suburban cooperation.   Bussing students to integrate schools began, and encountered much white resistance.

Biden got the message. If he continued to defend busing, he ran the real risk of becoming a one-term senator. In 1975, Joe Biden stunned his Senate colleagues by throwing his support behind known segregationist Jesse Helm’s proposed antibusing amendment to the Constitution. (p.65, Oluo, Ijeoma: MEDIOCRE: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America)

Our soon to be president spoke  in the mid-1970’s of the need to have other paths to integrate of our schools.  Forty five years later (with no plans from him) , the problems often have worsened, but nothing substantive has been done.­­­­­

There are many more examples I could share, explaining how racism persists.  From the 1930’s on, the Federal Government (through financing provided to developers, and loan programs for buyers) required racist policies creating segregated suburbs (and cities) (see: my review of The Color of Law at: https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2020/12/the-color-of-law-richard-rothstein.html).

***

I don’t blame myself for creating racism, sexism or classism!  I do believe that I’ve benefited from all of them.   I also continue to benefit from them.

I am an “offender.   Am I a major offender?  For most of my adult life I’ve only tokenly worked to end racism and sexism.   I’ve known of their importance for at least 40 years.  I’ve been just like many others in seeing the problems as “their problems”, not “my problem”, far too often.

How do we atone?  We need to first really learn about the issues.  It is not easy to end “not-me-ite-is” within ourselves!    It is much easier to change the subject.  

Every day of her life, Racism “flashes” within my (Black) wife is reminded of her Blackness and what it means.   Racism “flashes” within her all the time.  I can easily fall back into (closeting) my “whiteness” (and maleness) easily.  I don’t need to stand out.  I can easily hide in “normalcy”.

As a whole, we white (and male, where we are male) people have three core choices.  

We can:

1.   1.  (basically) do nothing and thus accept the status quo.

2.  2.   seek “equality” – e.g. – end discriminatory laws and their enforcement,

3.  3. work towards radical change, seeking to systemically end racism, sexism, classism and trans/gay/lesbian phobias.

In the past most efforts for change have sought “equality” through basic civil rights legislation.  Such legislation bans discrimination in areas like hiring, education, and housing.

Legislation has not dealt with the facts that police stops of “suspicious persons” disproportionately affects BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) in multiple ways.

I just Googled: “The Talk” and it took about 4-5 pages of listings until I go to what I was looking for.   Most white people probably do not know what I am referring to.  I never heard of it until I was middle-aged.   One example:

“Mommy, the darkest people get shooted and killed and sometimes the little bit lighter ones, too,” 4-year-old Quest McEwen mused a few months ago as his mother, Tessa McEwen, listened in shock. “So, that’s why I want to be good,” he continued. “Maybe I shouldn’t talk like this so I don’t get died.”

Quest wasn’t done fretting, however, when on a more recent morning, he worried aloud that he didn’t know “if Daddy’s dead,” because his father, Jelani McEwen, had come in late the night before following after-hours volunteer work in their Chicago neighborhood.

Like scores of black and brown families throughout the United States, the McEwens are struggling with the delicate-but-brutal balancing act of protecting their children’s innocence, while educating them about the realities of what it means to be black in this country.

For these parents and their children, “The Talk” has nothing to do with birds and bees. It is about surviving police encounters, being aware of your rights and learning how to live within a complex, systemic, centuries-old framework of race-based prejudice, violence and discrimination.

https://www.utne.com/community/police-racial-discrimination-zm0z17uzcwil

School systems can not “integrate” when their student bodies are nearly all white or BIPOC.   Neighborhoods and suburbs can not integrate when most BIPOC can not afford to live in them.   Suburbs will not become diverse when they deny developers the right to build multi-unit housing and require large lot sizes for single-family houses.

White people will not deal with their racism when their close friends and most of their neighbors are primarily white people, very similar to them in many ways.    White school children will grow up similar to their parents when their schools are either predominantly white, or when tracking in their schools, and their friends in school are (or become) predominantly white.

Sexism will not end until we men confront our sexist world(s) and actively work to support women’s efforts to end sexist violence, as well other gender-based inequality.

Classism will not end until we recognize the class divisions that we have, and actively work to minimize and end their persistence in our lives.   As long as buzzwords like “socialism” shut off discussion of economic issues, we can not seriously work on classism.   When we ignore classism, we can’t deal with its interconnectedness with racism. 

In today’s polarized world, we need to listen to the concerns and fears of both BIPOC and white people.   Frequently, some white people see their “victimhood” in distorted ways.    Many white men have seen their privilege diminish greatly in recent decades.    Women and BIPOC don’t defer to them as they used to do.

These men have taken in the words of those who have spoken to their fears.   These “talkers” have included both wealthy business interests and their leaders, who profit from scapegoating others, as well as politicians and their supporters who similarly play on fear.

Many white men (and women) believe that immigrants, gays, “liberals”, and government itself have taken their opportunities away from them.   They are often blind to the effects that automation and the exporting of jobs to poor, Third World Countries have had on their lives.   Blaming “China” or “socialism” or focusing upon “right to life” related issues can greatly affect these white people.  We have a new world of social media.  The words that I read are far different from what these people see and hear.

While breaking down these barriers is not easy, it is very important!

Efforts to legislate equality are doomed to failure.   Upper-middle class white parents like myself look  at primarily at the education of our children.  We won’t tolerate anything which forces our children to lose their programs or being “the AP students”.    We don’t and won’t subsidize paying for poorer children to have the after-school and summer programs that our children routinely have.   

Equality doesn’t get poor children the glasses that they need or the corrective eye exercises that will allow them to see the pages of their books.   Equality doesn’t eliminate the factors that cause many poor children to have lead poisoning or asthma.

***

Reparations” is probably a much bigger – “shut down the talk” word for most of us than almost anything we may hear.  “Restorative justice” sounds scary also.

Reparation awareness requires us to see that for other people to “get more”, we may/will “get less”.    We won’t get chosen for the job as frequently.   Healthcare may cost us more, as others get similar coverage, at costs they can afford.

It isn’t a “zero sum game”.   As a man, I need to learn to listen to, and respect women.  As an upper-middle class person, I may pay a little more in taxes some of the time, so that poorer people can pay less taxes.   I am not wealthy, but I am a “have” (as opposed to a “have not”).   If/when poorer Americans get more, I might end up with a little less.

Atoning – is not a simple solution.    What I am doing now “isn’t enough”.   What I and we need to do isn’t all obvious to me today.

How do we help BIPOC, women, and those who lack income/resources?  We need to deal with issues related to: housing, education, healthcare, personal relationships, religion/spiritual practices, our hearts – and much more.

We need to ask questions.   We need to really listen to others who are different from us.   We need to dialog as equals.

RESOURCES

I will suggest some groups that I work with in my life.   There are plenty more that I don’t work with.

SURJ – Showing Up for Racial Justice – www.showingupforracialjustice.org

OWMCL – Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation – www.owmcl.org

A Call to Men – www.acalltomen.org

For anyone who might want to learn about some of the issues, I’d suggest some books.  My top (tough) choices on racism are:

 The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America – by Richard Rothstein,

NOBODY: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond -by  Marc Lamont Hill

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements -by Charlene Carruthers and

The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us – by Paul Tough

 

Related to Donald Trump and “his” (political) “right”, I’d recommend:

Anger and Mourning on the American Right – by: Arlie Russell Hochschild.

Related to economics and inequality, I’d recommend:

People, Power and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent – by: Joseph Stiglitz

 

We have a lot of work to do!   I have a lot of work to do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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