When my father, Theodore, was murdered, shame became my mantle. Once an extrovert, I became not only an introvert, but a pariah. These happened because at that time, 1978, in most places, including Toronto, Ontario, Canada, we were not versed on how to talk about death, let alone murder, and of course the notion of Restorative Justice, that which I situate in the crucible of Sawbonna, was barely gestating anywhere beyond Aboriginal communities, whose usage was fast diminishing. Enter shame. Firstly, the question to do with Theodore, "Why did he get involved anyway? How stupid!" Secondly, to me, in class, in community, everywhere, "You can't ask those questions. You are being too intense, too demanding, too disruptive." Thirdly, in relation to a yearning for conversation about humanity, "God knows what God is doing. It was his time to meet Him. Pray harder." My often false smiles and anger blended in with shame and a deep sense of being an utter idiot. "What do you mean you want to have a real conversation? And now? We are at dinner?"
Fast-forward to 2015. A crisis of epic proportions faces us, daily, in our personal, political, and public landscapes. What crisis? The crisis of as yet nurtured patriarchy. Patriarchy essentially means: there is a system; there are forms; there are procedures. No matter if you are victim/survivor, offender, student, professor, or else. There are procedures in place to ensure that the correct box is ticked, the correct face (mask) is shown, and the right method is used. Coupled with systems, is the insidious response to those who would ask "too many questions," most often launched and laughed behind backs, "S/he is too difficult, too demanding, too aggressive."
I am fifty-three years of age. I am difficult, demanding, aggressive, as described and understood by me, as it relates to being what Sister Helen Prejean said the last time we saw eachother: radical; as from the roots, les racines, the earth, if soul of the matter of being humans. I want engagement about Restorative Justice, within the crucible of Sawbonna. I want to be living the change in the world I wish to see. I am a woman. And this is part of my shaming. I am supposed to acquiesce with and to systems, patriarchal and limiting; and I am fully aware that the mantle of patriarchy is not the mantle of men alone. Womyn also participate, particularly in terrains which are upheld, fed, and lived by the acceptance of systems and ticking the correct boxes. In fact, how often do womyn warn each other to be "nice," "don't use that language," "I am telling you for your own good," don't dress that way." Restorative Justice should not be about this. Sawbonna is not. Respect; Responsibility; and, Relationship do not need a box to tick, they need spaces, places, and voices that want to see and to be seen. That want to hear and to be heard. Even as my shame can debilitate me at times, showing up not only with words, but with and for and because of a community of shared-care, contours my days, feeds my belief in Sawbonna: Justice as a Lived and Living Experience.