A Perfect Opportunity to Change the System (Updated)

The two white adult racists who tore down the Frederick Douglass statue (John R. Boedicker, 20, of Endicott, Broome County, andMugshots of 2 white racists Charles J. Milks, 21, of Kenmore) ... lets not "throw the book at them." Hear me out on this. We should use this as an opportunity to transform our criminal justice system. Why these white guys? Because we're all paying attention, that's why. We're all pissed, that's why. The media's paying attention, that's why. I'm sure all the status quo politicians are paying attention, that's why.

So we use restorative justice practices - not just to pay for the damage, but to make them interact with members of the black community who fight systemic racism on a daily basis. Make them leave the community they invaded to get their drink on better than they left it. And all the while, keep the cameras on them, so that they know that we all know who they are.

And when it's "over", we use them as a shining example of how restorative justice works and that we shouldn't be throwing people away. And we INSIST that we start using restorative justice practices with our black and brown brothers and sisters and we don't let up until the politicians in charge make this the law.

We all know that the people in charge are not going to create any kind of progressive change because of something a black or brown person does. Throwing these white guys in jail will not change anything. My interest is not in "saving" these two racists. This is an opportunity for systemic change.  Let's take advantage of the situation.

What do you think?

UPDATE: After a conversation on Facebook about this idea, I was encouraged to expound a bit more on my idea - particularly in terms of exactly who would be facilitating such a process within our criminal justice system.  While it would not be appropriate for me to call out specific individuals for doing this work, I agree that those who do should have a solid background in the historical perspective of the systemic racism that oppresses everyone.  By no means should members of the judicial system or law enforcement be responsible for deciding who will facilitate restorative justice practices.

UPDATE: It's a legitimate point that a lot of white people are calling for RJ in dealing with these two adults, but nary a peep when someone of color is mentioned in the news.  For the record, I've been advocating for Restorative Justice for a while.  Here's an example.  https://archive.org/details/TransformingRochester92



Showing 6 reactions

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  • David Sutliff Atias
    commented 2019-01-08 20:51:21 -0500

    By no means have you been “boorish”. We’re having a discussion – that’s one of the benefits of a campaign for public office.

    When elected, I’ll be one of nine people on City Council, and the first non-Democrat in 35 years, so for anything I try to achieve, it will take public support and organizing.

    I’m ready for the challenge.
  • Anna Archbold
    commented 2019-01-08 19:52:28 -0500
    Thank you warmly for the response.

    I understand your position, and that is what I assumed your logic to be, on both fronts, hence my recommendation on a community making the decision around the test case. I agree that if you were to make the decision and pick someone Black or brown, this may come off wrong as well, not unjustifiably, I might add.

    My thinking, and I’m sorry I didn’t explain this well, was a community working together to make this decision, and you, acting in your official capacity, would essentially rubber stamp it. My thought process on this was spiritually similar to your own on change for a twenty, or perhaps Murray Bookchin’s conception of Municipal Libertarianism. In an ideal setting, restorative justice would likely be a communal exercise in many cases.

    Regardless, I’m also pragmatic, and would be overjoyed to see restorative justice become a reality in Rochester (or New York) in general.

    Thank you for your work on this incredibly important area already, it vastly exceeds my own. I volunteer only a small amount currently, due in part to transportation difficulties and the need to trade ones labor for survival.

    I apologize for my earlier boorishishness, the comment required far more elucidation and could have utilized language that was fairer to you. Thank you again for your kind and prompt response.
  • David Sutliff Atias
    commented 2019-01-07 22:11:12 -0500
    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for commenting. My reason for using this episode is two-fold, but both reasons are connected in terms of the timing. It was already planned to release a call for RJ during the campaign, but the publicity around this incident and the discussions it spurred was an opportunity to bring the issue up while people were focused on crime & punishment.

    The underpinnings of systemic racism, particularly in how people of color are covered by the media, brought me to assess that both the media and voters would be more open to the concept of incorporating RJ if it was discussed using white criminals. It was a purposeful decision.

    I have a history of working with local social justice groups such as the Police Accountability Board Alliance and Enough is Enough. From my experience with these groups as well as my own personal research and reflection, a white person such as myself recommending what should happen to people of color who are arrested is more problematic than using this instance to introduce my stance on RJ.

    But again, I appreciate your comment. It made me think even more deeply about this campaign and why I’m running. Please let me know if there are any other issues you’d like to discuss.

  • Anna Archbold
    commented 2019-01-07 21:37:51 -0500
    I’m open generally to the concept of restorative justice, and I don’t mean to virtue signal, or pull you down at all Dave. That being said, the language used in this piece seems to suggest that the community members who might be participating are, at this time anyway, a bit ethereal.

    While this may be taken by some as a kind of “pragmatic optics”, or PR stance, and by others as an endorsement of Intersectional politics, have you in fact consulted anyone within the community, and asked them of their own feelings, or if they may be better served to service the program, (in concert with yourself of course) concerning the fact that your pilot program centers the discussion on the restoration of two white individuals involved in an act of racial hatred? The optics of this, given your own whiteness, may come off a bit trite, that a white man may select other white men for what is deemed a more empathetic system of Justice, rather a community be empowered to select one or two Black or Brown folk. New York State itself, out of every 100,000 people, incarcerates 896 Black people as compared to 112 white people. (http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/The-Color-of-Justice-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparity-in-State-Prisons.pdf).

    While I didn’t find any statistics on Rochester’s incarceration rates, I’m sure they are similar.

    I generally find myself agreeing with you and your parties stances, and certainly my own criticism here might seem somewhat unfounded, given that you champion restorative justice at all, as compared to your competition. I would hope that if you haven’t already done so, you may consult with those peoples who would best be able to provide a very necessary perspective on deciding who should be the pilot case, rather than latching onto something that might seem as a genuine goodwill expression, to those of a specific privileged perspective and experience, yet come off as callous to those with a very different experience of the New York/Monroe/Rochester CJS.

    I thank you warmly for your time, and look forward to your response.
  • David Sutliff Atias
    commented 2018-12-21 12:10:00 -0500
    That is a great idea, Rosalie. If Restorative Justice became a systemic solution, I would like to have the Circle of Courage concept incorporated into the structure.
  • Rosalie Jones
    commented 2018-12-21 11:58:54 -0500
    I totally agree with the concept of ‘restorative justice’. As an mixed blood Indigenous person, restitution needs to be made to those offended or abused, in a way that teaches the offender to realize how the offense has damaged the community. Definitely these two offenders should repair the Douglas statue – with the guidance of the artist Olivia Kim. And perhaps even more could take place: the two should put in the time and effort to create another new Douglas statue from beginning to end – pouring the mold, attaching the two halves, beveling the edges and applying the various coats of sealer and paint. This process is hard manual labor! Only then would they realize the full import of the artistic/craftmanship process involve in the creation that they severely damaged and dis-respected. Daystar/Rosalie Jones