- Dorothy Vaandering
What Do I Really Believe About Humanity?
My heart hurts, my stomach feels tight as I read news headlines this week… Racist reactions to Canadians of Asian descent are increasing across the country, the killing in Nova Scotia began as domestic abuse, the number of women and children killed/abused is increasing. It touches me personally when I hear from international students that they suffer through racist remarks as they work as cashiers at Sobeys, when I am in meetings with Indigenous colleagues, female colleagues struggling to keep up with the workload, child-care and home-education, with colleagues who are visible minorities, when I snap at my husband and a student struggling to complete their final papers. I take a deep breath to remind myself to process all of this through the lens of the core belief of RF-RJE.
At the core of putting relationships first in our lives, is the explicit belief that all people are worthy and interconnected. It is easy to say, “of course I believe this!” However, the longer I have been involved in restorative justice education (RJE), as someone who lives a very privileged life, this has been a true test for me. The test comes in my ability to ask myself and answer two key questions about my relationship with others. When I look at another …
My answers often reveal that before I see another's humanity, I battle assumptions I hold/held about their age, behaviour, heritage, sexual orientation, faith, race, job, financial status, etc., that impacts how I respond to or interact with them; assumptions that allow me to ignore the needs of those who are impacted by my privilege that is ‘fed’ by their suffering. So, what does this have to do with responding in this time of “till”
What would happen in your relationships if you wrote out those questions, posted them on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, home-office bulletin boards and pondered them with every decision you make or every challenging interaction in which you find yourself?
If I truly believe all people are worthy and interconnected, then How am I honouring myself, my partner, my children, my neighbour, my co- worker, the grocery store clerk, the custodian at the hospital, my students, … ?
Intertwined within headlines of harm, are others announcing reopening plans. The little voice inside me bristles a bit with each one I read as it is obvious that these plans are experiments, that the plans come with a litany of rules and guidelines that are onerous and oppressive for many, that the plans most often require the most vulnerable to put themselves at risk for the sake of the privileged. A recent meme stated, “We should not go back to normal, because normal was the problem.”
Pre-pandemic the biggest hurdle for people invited to engage with RJE, was their ability to rethink their view of humanity. Is it possible that having had nine weeks of isolation, we might find it more possible to respond to our new reality by explicitly deciding, regardless of my level of privilege, if I truly believe that ALL people are worthy and interconnected. If I say yes, then that will mean I cannot go back to ‘normal’.