Aspirational Justice: A New Paradigm for Justice in America
Restorative Justice has been used in communities of color for many years and with positive and documented results in schools and community projects. In light of the continued movements toward positive relationships between community stakeholders which include criminal justice, business leaders and schools, there is a growing understanding that there is something more that is needed from a historical and socio-economic context. The question that I ponder is what type of America are we restoring our children to? Historically African-Americans have never in documented American history felt a sense of Restorative Justice. African-Americans have never felt that Euro-Americans who have offended them have acknowledged their harms and have tried to make amends by the best of their ability. Euro-Americans have never been held accountable for their harms toward African-Americans. African-Americans have never been given the opportunity to face the persons who offended them and have voice in the process of healing and the possibility for reconciliation. Those that have been my teachers have taught and have guided me over the years that without these elements the conversation is not restorative. The question that I have is what would that look like in our American society? The opportunity to sit down in a restorative practices process with those who forbearers formally owned our ancestors and accumulated wealth and prosperity without true reparation and reconciliation would amount to more conversations and no actionable steps toward justice and healing. African-Americans do not only need restorative justice but a justice that elevates us all to new heights. I call this justice process Aspirational Justice. What is Aspirational Justice? It is based on a truth and reconciliation model that engages African and Euro-Americans who have historically been at odds and are seeking to establish a new relationship that necessitates a reconciled form of a racial and reparative relationship. This Aspirational Justice Construct (AJC) looks at three 3 areas of interest. 1) What are the symbolic processes needed to begin this new relationship toward healing and truth? 2) What are the institutional rearrangements and the new institutions that need to be considered in this new relationship between Euro and African-Americans. 3) What are the tangible reparative processes that need to be in place to begin the procedures toward equalizing the relational, socio-political and socio-economic conditions of the African and Euro-Americans. The wounds in our relationship run deep. What would that process look like? Would it emulate South Africa's truth and reconciliation process done as a direct response to the national damage that the Apartheid regime and policies have wrought or would it be something else. Would it take the form of a formal apology from the President of the United States as the President of Canada did about the residential schools and the abuses they did to the Native American children? Would that be enough to satisfy 400 hundred years of chattel slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow and the many years of the expansion of the criminal justice system into the African-American communities in our recent times? This cannot be a restorative justice conversation only between our citizens but I would offer an Aspirational conversation around justice and reconciliation. We have to create something new. As I explore Aspirational Justice (AJ) for the healing of America, the Symbolic, Institutional and Tangible processes can be constructed in our American society. The outcomes are vast and far reaching. Could you imagine a society where our culture values the content of ones character over the color of their skin? Can you imagine reparations for the African-American community that was not based in monetary compensation only but a Spiritual reparation and a renewing of the American consciousness? Can you imagine America leading the world toward healing and reconciliation as we face the new threats that have been caused by our apathy and greed toward our planet. Before we talk about restorative justice, this conversation must also be considered. Aspirational Justice will not erase the dark history of slavery, the Civil War, and its aftermath. But bring to light the way our country has found a away to celebrate the strength of the human spirit and forge a "new birth of freedom". We must name and claim this elusive form of justice that our country needs. Aspirational justice is justice that racially reconciles our nation and raises the conscience of our nation from a racial focus toward reconciliation and peace.