Restorative Justice

Dane County TimeBank and Restorative Justice 

The Dane County TimeBank has been practicing restorative justice work in Dane County and within the schools. This work has included responsive restorative conversations that offer an anti-racist framework and restorative justice circles.  

What is Restorative Justice? 

Restorative Justice is a theory and practice of community-based approach to doing community building, responding when harm is caused or healing damaged relationships. This work is based on 360-degree accountability, mutual concern, dignity and respect.  

Grounded in the view that all members of a community are worthy and interdependent, the practice promotes community building, self-awareness, and empathy to create justice, equity and freedom. Through the creation of collective agreements people work to resolve conflict and respond to deep patterns of harm which are often grounded in historical, structural and physical racism and violence. 

Transformative Action Network 

By learning to relate effectively with racism and interrupt patterns of white supremacist culture, TAN members become allies and co-conspirators to Black and Brown community members. Using restorative justice work, TAN is helping Timebank build resilience instead of fragility, action instead of silence and solidarity instead of hierarchy. Abolitionist restorative practices become powerful tools that enhance mutuality and respect across gender, race and class lines. They lead to the kind of collaboration that can move Madison beyond anemic liberalism to real progressive alternatives. Anti-racist restorative practice among Timebankers is leading to racial justice.  

As James Baldwin wrote, “Any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible – and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people – must be prepared to “go for broke.” As a network, we are striving to give racial justice everything we have. 

Finding Our True North for Racial Justice: Redefining Power

  • Posted on: 17 April 2020
  • By: Damita Brown

Dr. Damita Brown

How does a racial justice lens redefine power within a white led and predominantly white organization?

Instrumentalist justice looks like exploiting black participation as opposed to sharing power. In that situation tactics of dominance continue to run the organization. From divide and conquer to hiring black gatekeepers – some one has to handle the “natives”.

What really has not happened in Madison is an understanding that racism is disgusting.

How it works is still something white people need to be more curious about? It is so poorly understood because of the assumption that it is understood. It is similar to the idea that when people are convinced they are living in a functioning democracy and that they are free, they will not work to create a democracy or free themselves. Whites who assume they are not racist are not trying to solve that problem.

 

This really points to the inherent power in self-awareness. Being curious about how racism works is how we begin to overcome ignorance. It is pure intelligence to be curious. It is the capacity to expand our own minds through the development of critical awareness of what is.

 

There also needs to be a deeper sense of determination. By this I mean, first, determination to go beyond “trying” at a superficial level which allows you to check the boxes off but which does not create a fundamental shift in the way you behave. If you are satisfied with the benefits of white privilege and the power it has given you, yet you are engaging in racial justice work, you might not be able to see the contradiction there. That deeper level of determination to uproot racism has to emerge as a key element of self-awareness.

 

To let go of a grasp on illicit and racist power it has to be seen as the violent thing that it is and it has to be understood in terms of the harm it is causing. And yet, as far as white supremacist culture is concerned, there may as well be blood in the breast milk. We bathe in violence. We enjoy a steady diet of violence. Ours is a culture of violence and aggression – macro, historical, passive, and micro.

The second sense of deeper determination has to do with recovering from the harm the violence of racism has caused. Violence and racism are inseparable. How are our relationships impacted by this violence?

I think we can really be committed to this work when we see the harm racism causes to our sense of humanity. Only then can we begin to develop a richer sense of that humanity, to restore it. Recovering from the impact of racism means being able to be accountable to ones self. Not guilt ridden or shame based but truly devastated by the immensity of the harm that has been caused. What mitigates that deep sorrow and remorse is the fact that the racist structures we have inherited are not of our own making. And yet that's not enough. Personal responsibility has to be defined by how we enter this narrative and perpetuate it. Blamelessness and accountability go hand in hand.

What makes black people feel welcome in organizations that have a history of abusing, ignoring or controlling them? What kind of trust can there be of power that has historically ignored the structural violence of segregation while benefiting from it? Some expression and evidence of willingness to dismantle whiteness and white supremacist culture has to translate into looking at specific practices within that organization that keep Black people out, controlled or subordinate. We sometimes talk about push out behaviors in schools. What about push out behavior in other white led organizations?

 

Some respect for Black and Brown leadership, ideas and experience with racism needs to take place on an ongoing basis. And this respect does not materialize magically. It involves a long slog through the many filters and safeguards put in place by centuries of racist training. It takes time to recognize, transform and act. Transformative action is literally the critical shift of our gaze and the development of our lens on that basis. There has to be enough self-reflective power to examine projections of racist narratives onto innocent people. That dialogue implicit and explicit has to be turned outward and the trained editing and suppression of those ideas and the ways those ideas impact our day to day decisions has to be understood.

 

That is the process that translates in to genuine accountability. Seeing it makes us able to own the harm we cause. Once we get to that place we will not need to worry about ending racism. At that point of transforming our projections we become able to act from a legitimate position of understanding illicit power and feeling disgust for it. We feel disgust for the violence that is encoded in whiteness and our preference for white defined things. White neighbors, white status symbols and a hierarchy created by white people for white people. Rejecting that culture becomes possible when we see there is something better than an identity dependent of dispossession of others, something better than social structures that rely the zero sum logic which pits one group's needs against another's. Something better than the imposed training to believe that we are separate and therefore it is possible to flee from harm we cause to others.

This kind of self awareness is power. It rejects the mythical norm. It allows us to be truly self-directed. Without this we are manipulated and controlled by that which we cannot face in ourselves. And power will seem to be something someone else can give us. But legitimate power does not come from out there.

 

Most of us aim our sights at the norm. We aim for that version of sanity. We have a carbon copy facsimile imprinted on the back of our eye balls of what it looks like but we are all just aiming at constructions and missing the target everytime – it's a box we are told to live in but none of us really fit. Our immaturity is reflected in our lack of awareness of this fact. We need the emotional security of that awareness. Effective resistance depends on it. Destroying that box is the work of deconstructing race, dismantling the mythical norm of whiteness.

 

Being true to dismantling whiteness and white supremacist culture on which it rests cannot be done in a vacuum. We will need to speak truth to power. First to the power living in your mind so that you become that power. You evict the master's power and the master's tools and the trinkets he gives you for playing along. Then you can find the true north of your own sanity in this speech. You will fnd it in the acts which that speech compels.

Choosing Liberation

  • Posted on: 26 March 2020
  • By: Damita Brown

March 26, 2020

If you understand your personal, institutional or social power and privilege to be tied to white supremacist culture (WSC) and racism or internalized racism, you might not want see that culture end. But if you (re)define yourself within a racial/black liberation strategy, and unpack white dominated identity structures, you can align yourself with racial justice. Re-definition allows realigning values with ones actions.

 

White people have to ask what is the status of my anti-racism? What have I done this week or today to focus my racial justice lens? How have I challenged WSC practices or shifted the cultural narrative of stealing, violence, dominance and divisiveness, etc.? How have I cut through emotional repression, complicity through silence, and denial of my role in perpetuating racial injustice today? How am I divesting myself from the perpetuation of colonialism, war and violence? When did I challenge us/them or blame and shame narratives that help entrench cultural isolation and denial this week?

 

POCs can ask what have we done in the last week to create healing around racial trauma? How have I reduced the distance between myself and other POCs? What have I read about racial justice in the last week? When did I challenge us/them or blame and shame narratives that help entrench cultural isolation and denial? What am I doing to uplift solidarity and confidence among Black and Brown youth? How am I healing the inter-generational divisions in my community? How am I addressing status seeking opportunism in my community? How am I divesting myself from the perpetuation of capitalism? How am I building solidarity beyond my own community with other communities of color?

 

As a world, we are moving into a different age. The birth pains of bringing the new world into existence are related to letting go of old habits, patterns and attachments to illicit power and ill-gotten goods. Reckoning with the past is still necessary. Restoring justice for this new world means repairing broken and damaged relationships. It means building bridges across the structural divisions created by hyper-segregation and other structures of domination. To do this we have to develop clarity. That clarity involves unpacking the ways our identity is substantiated within illicit relations of power. We need to ask again and again “Who am I?” and “What am I?” within a liberation narrative? What am I doing to build a world where that narrative thrives?

 

We will not gain a sense of our place within a liberation narrative if we are unable recognize our hand in upholding narratives of domination. We have to choose. What does that choice really mean in practical day to day terms? Among other things, it means making day to day decisions that reflect black/brown solidarity or co-conspirator politics. Along this journey to liberation our ability to shift this culture is made more and more possible with each decision to choose freedom over fear, openness over denial, and sharing over greed.

 

This transitional time invites us to embrace a new set of possibilities, one grounded in honesty, connection and kindness. There is no reason to look beyond the present set of circumstances and resources to make this leap into something new. In fact, everything we need to accomplish it exists within us and all around us at every given moment. We are being challenged to look carefully into our situation as it is. We are looking into our own worthiness, resourcefulness and fearlessness. What does that journey entail? What is the full measure of our human inheritance?

All of us have work to do to recover from the dehumanization that our society has demanded. The cruelty and ignorance that comes from being racist or living in a racist society causes dehumanization. That has to be repaired. The deep patterns of harm are invested in our institutions, all of our institutions. Those have to be replaced. For some of us, healing may mean appreciating ourselves more. It may mean listening to our own advice. It might mean really finding out what self-empathy feels like. Whatever the path of healing entails, let us decide. We don't have to wait for freedom. Decide.

Restorative Justice Hotline

  • Posted on: 20 March 2020
  • By: Kayasia Blake

Beginning on March 25th the TimeBank Restorative Justice (RJ) team is offering a hotline phone service for community members to utilize if they are experiencing a difficult situation. Our RJ team can help facilitate restorative conversations and help connect people with community resources. If you are having difficulties with friends, family members, neighbors or anyone else, we can help talk you through the situation to reach an understanding. With a focus on healing and understanding we hope this service can be used as an alternative to police interaction. PLEASE NOTE: If you have an emergency please call 911. We are not emergency responders.

The hours for Hotline services will be between 4pm and 8pm Monday through Sunday. These hour may expand as more volunteers are trained. You can reach us by calling 1 866 758. 7887 .RJ practitioners Alexis and Kayasia will be available during these times to assist youth in having restorative conversations, completing follow up from previous interactions, and helping youth to meet their basic needs. There will also be a staff of volunteers working to meet the same needs for the rest of the community.

Restorative Justice Update

  • Posted on: 19 March 2020
  • By: Alexis Gardner

An update on efforts the Restorative Justice project is taking during the current health crisis. Inviting community members to contact us for help with domestic violence or trouble with friends, family or co-workers without calling the police. For those wanting to get involved with the Restorative Justice Project and/or the Transformative Action Network, she shares information about upcoming opportunities.

DJ's Story

  • Posted on: 18 March 2020
  • By: Dane County TimeBank

Listen to DJ's story of how participating in our Restorative Justice project has impacted his life.