RJCO Coordinating Committee Commitment to Racial Equity

Draft Approved by Coordinating Committee on August 10, 2020.

Acknowledgement & Why

  • Across the nation, and in Oregon, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) are victimized, policed, arrested and convicted at disproportionately high rates.
  • In Oregon, historically, data on race and ethnicity demographics for victims has never been collected. At the same time, BIPOC tend to report crime less because of mistrust of law enforcement and fear of deportation.
  • Oregon has a long history of white supremacy and exclusionary laws that have actively created systems of exclusion and criminalization of Native Americans, Blacks, and Asians.
  • We are in a current political climate that has increased exclusionary laws that are impacting Middle Eastern and Latinx folks.
  • We are in the midst of a national awakening drawing attention to centuries of anti blackness, police brutality, and pervasive systemic racism, including, but not limited to the criminal justice system.
  • As of 2018-2019, K-12 students in Oregon were a little more than twice as likely to receive exclusionary discipline if they were Black or Native American than if they were White, and exclusionary discipline is a key determinant of future law enforcement involvement (School-to-Prison Pipeline).
  • Systems that are set up to produce racially unjust outcomes will continue to produce such outcomes until the systems are changed, even if the people working within those systems personally place a high value on racial equity. Most of the restorative justice work done by RJCO members has been directly engaged with two such systems: criminal justice and education.

And Yet

  • Historically, the restorative justice movement in Oregon has not applied a racial equity analysis to its work.
  • BIPOC are not well represented in restorative justice practitioner circles such as RJCO, or in restorative justice leadership roles in the state of Oregon, despite restorative practices being historically grounded in indigenous practices.

RJCO Coordinating Committee Commitment to Racial Equity

Given both the historical and systemic exclusion, victimization, and criminalization of BIPOC in the State of Oregon, and nationally, RJCO believes that it is imperative that we as a collective body incorporate a critical race analysis to our work. Without it we will never achieve the transformative outcomes we are looking for in our work as Restorative Justice practitioners and advocates, and furthermore will likely continue to replicate patterns of systemic harms of the past.

What does that look like for RJCO?

The Coordinating committee acknowledges that words do not equal action, that a commitment to racial equity is a lifelong personal and professional commitment, and we will make mistakes along the way. Therefore, the RJCO Coordinating Committee is committed to a living process of addressing race and harm in restorative ways in Oregon so long as BIPOC communities experience harm and mass criminalization at disproportionate rates.

After a two-day retreat in February 2020 with Sidney Morgan, our current actions include:

  • Stop seeing and calling ourselves the umbrella organization for RJ in Oregon
  • Stop speaking as though RJCO is representative of the whole RJ community of Oregon when asked to inform policy
  • Start encouraging and supporting policy makers to engage impacted communities when we are approached for input on questions of justice
  • Start centering racial equity by applying a racial equity analysis to decision making
  • Start actively seeking to enter into relationship with BIPOC people/groups advocating for restorative processes
  • Start developing transparency with current (and future?) membership through individual outreach regarding commitment to racial equity (review with Membership Subcommittee)
  • Continue commitment to racial equity at each convening, including dedicated agenda time, sharing resources, and revisiting our action steps on a regular basis