Restorative Justice and the Renaming Process

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We view restorative justice as a means to the institutionalizing of antiracism programming in the Town of Brookline. While typically viewed in a criminal justice context, we believe it has far broader applications well beyond the renaming the Coolidge Corner School.


According to the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, “Restorative justice is a set of practices that aim to redirect society’s retributive response to crime. Restorative justice views crime not as a depersonalized breaking of the law but as a wrong against another person. It attends to the broken relationships between three players: the offender, the victim, and the community. Accordingly, restorative justice seeks to elevate the role of crime victims and community members; hold offenders directly accountable to the people they have harmed; and restore, to the extent possible, the emotional and material losses of victims by providing a range of opportunities for dialogue, negotiation, and problem solving. Moreover it views criminal acts more comprehensively than our judicial system because it recognizes how offenders harm victims, communities, and even themselveby their actions.”

The ultimate aim of restorative justice is one of healing. If survivors of crimes receive appropriate emotional and material reparation, the harm can be redressed; by seeking to repair the damage caused, the offender can be reconciled with the victim and reintegrated back into his or her social and familial networks; and through such reconciliation and reintegration, community harmony has a chance to be restored. This manner of healing gives the actual victims and the community, as well as the offenders, the opportunity to take an active part in the justice process instead of a traditionally passive role.

In the context of race-based restorative justice, the goals are quite similar to that of criminal restorative justice. People of color have been and continue to be harmed by a series of policies and practices that have the intended and unintended consequence of harming members of a particular group. Naming and retaining the name of an enslaver over a school is wrong and causes lasting scars. Restorative justice can potentially work if applied consistently and thoughtfully to ameliorate some of the scars caused by such institutional racism.

Petitioners seek restorative justice because racism is harmful in many ways. It means fewer educational, employment, housing and income generating opportunities. It limits ones access to proper health care and it can long term serious health effects. Whether one is discussing the concept of “weathering” or the epigenetics of racism, the outcomes can be severe, up to and including premature death.

We seek to create an anti-racism program that focuses on the victims of racism, much like traditional restorative justice focuses on the crime victim. What harm was caused and what do people of color need to be made whole? How does the school system and town leaders “own” their role in perpetuating racism, based on white privilege or through overt and intentional acts? Do whites appreciate their obligation to interrupt the systemic racism down to and including micro aggressions? Finally, respective stakeholders (people of color, white people, local officials and beneficiaries of current systems) must engage in respectful behaviors to rebalance how the Town addresses racism. White people and in particular, Town leaders must make a personal commitment to end their individual behaviors and systemic actions that lead to outcomes that disproportionately adversely impact people of color. Finally, they have to further agree to constantly evaluate their personal conduct, policies, programming and procedures to ensure that they or the system does not hurt people of color.


1. Centre for Justice and Reconciliation

2. Restorative Justice: Some Facts and History, by Marilyn Armour. Marilyn

Armour, Ph.D., directs the Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue at the University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work, and is coauthor with Mark Umbreit of Restorative Justice Dialogue: An Essential Guide for Research and Practice (2010).

3. The Costs of Racism for Black Women: The Concept of Weathering, Published June 4, 2018

4. Racial Trauma, Weathering, Internalized Racism and Historical Trauma