• Laura Barr

Now, NOT Later--Deep Listening (2)

Updated: Jun 16

Now, NOT Later Blog Series (pt. 2)

As we enter into the weekend, perhaps less fatigued by the pandemic and more by the

unrest in the USA and reflecting on the whispers that should be shouts here in Canada , I return to the purpose of this blog … to spur each other on to explicitly choose to live in ways that honour the worth of ALL people and to understand how interconnected we are with each other and our created environments.

I wake up to more examples of people hurt/dying at the hands of/in the presence of police here in Canada and to yet another life lost in our Innu community through suicide. I continue to be contacted by people in school districts where human rights violations relating to discriminatory practices of all kinds are regular occurrences. It is not enough to fix a system that was intentionally designed to elevate the worth of some at the expense of others. We need to create new ways of being and this means that for those of us with privilege we need to come to conclusions about what it is that we are willing to give up. Why do I continue to advocate for restorative justice as a means for doing that? How do I know restorative justice will really help?

Two reasons.

1. People who are being marginalized have been modelling for and calling dominant populations to engage with restorative justice principles and practices for centuries and again in contemporary times. Just a few present-day examples: the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the Canadian TRC and the Coming to the Table program in the US. Specific resources include: The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice, The Little Book of Racial Healing, Everyday Ubuntu, Colorizing Restorative Justice, Truth and Conviction, Returning to the Teachings, Restorative Inquiry-Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children.

2. Restorative justice requires deep listening and it provides the framework for doing so. Very simply, deep listening is listening in such a way that I know that what I hear may require that I change. It is different than compassionate listening where I am a sounding board for someone who needs to share their pain or their ideas; it is different than interruptive listening where I am formulating my ideas while the other is speaking convinced that what I say is more important. In both of these, I do not expect to change.

These two reasons are interconnected. When I am marginalized, I am made to feel that I do not belong and that I have less value. And this defies and undermines my ability to be fully human. Ultimately, in life if even one person is dehumanized, then we all are. Restorative justice creates space where we can come, share, be heard, listen--where our stories and our lives mingle and collectively we change so ALL can thrive, not just survive. This is true in situations ranging from listening to the student who is struggling to complete a math challenge, to a child spilling angry words and tears, to adults engaged in protests and war.

The invitation: As you talk with people today (and beyond) ask yourself “Am I listening expecting that I might need to change?” What do you notice?