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Racial Justice and Equity

"Racial equity is about applying justice and a little bit of common sense to a system that's been out of balance. When a system is out of balance, people of color feel the impacts most acutely, but, to be clear, an imbalanced system makes all of us pay."2 (Glenn Harris, Race Forward)

A Time of Reckoning

The racial reckoning of 2020 has escalated the need for many white practitioners to take a hard look at how to become anti-racist. In addition, many in the restorative justice community have begun to use a racial equity lens to assess areas for improvement within their practices, organizations, and institutions.

As long as our systems are “out of balance,” as Glenn Harris indicates, it becomes increasingly urgent for the voices of practitioners of color to be amplified. We are suddenly seeking to answer the question, “What does a fully inclusive restorative justice community look like?”

By the time this engagement guide is disseminated, we will be more than one year removed from the tragic murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Many have referred to this event as the spark that created the racial reckoning of 2020.

As a result, Americans are having cross-cultural discussions about race, white privilege, and white supremacy. Policy decisions have been made nationwide regarding the future of law enforcement.

Practitioners from the restorative justice community have been central in many of these discussions — as circle keepers holding space in difficult discussions on racism and police brutality, as trainers facilitating anti-racism trainings, and as interveners in difficult conflicts concerning our racist past as a country. 

What does racial equity look like for restorative justice engagement?

  • Honest acknowledgment of power differentials among stakeholders resulting from systemic racism.

  • Meaningful inclusion of people of color in the decisions that impact their lives.

  • Learning to recognize systemic, institutional, cultural, expressed, and internalized racism as root causes of harm and oppression and attending to the resulting needs.

  • Understanding racism as a sin and an affront to the human dignity of all — those marginalized by it and those who participate in it. 


Reflection Questions

  1. How does my racial identity influence my experience of the harm I/we wish to address? 

  2. How does a lens of racial justice and equity influence the way I engage with restorative justice practice?

  3. How can a restorative justice approach shape the way I/we respond to racial oppression?

(2) Accessed May 25, 2021.
Content contributors to this section included Sheryl Wilson.