Restorative “beer summit?” – and a new subscription link

& Peacebuilding, Restorative Justice.

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Several people or articles have described the “beer summit” between Professor Gates and Officer Crowley at the White House, facilitated by President Obama, as restorative justice or or a restorative approach.  It is interesting to reflect on this in light of Catherine Bargen’s observations about terminology in an earlier blog entry (“Is there justice in restorative?”).

Certainly it seems to have been consistent with a restorative approach or practice. The methodology was respectful dialogue, apparently with President Obama serving as facilitator.  Clearly it helped to humanize the “other,” providing a space to hear one another’s perspective, and to in doing so to develop some empathy for one another as a person and in their roles.  As any good restorative practice should, it seems to some extent to have addressed the future; at least participants talked about looking ahead and plan at least one further meeting.

How much the justice issues were addressed we don’t know.  Did they explicitly address the harms? Did they talk about all about accountability and obligations?  This isn’t clear, at least from the reports I’ve seen.

So it’s probably best categorized as a restorative practice rather than restorative justice, but what we call it isn’t really important at this point.  What is crucial is that these men have modeled a process and some values that are terribly important.  In doing so, they have contributed significantly to the kind of dialogue this country needs on race and policing.

As the fields of restorative justice, conflict transformation and trauma work all emphasize, conflict is an opportunity. Out of hurt can come growth.  (A poster idea: Conflict is opportunity – don’t waste it.)

At his news conference, Officer Crowley did suggest that at the next meeting perhaps they wouldn’t drink alcohol in order to avoid the impression that beer is an essential ingredient to such dialogues. Good point.

5 Responses to “Restorative “beer summit?” – and a new subscription link”

  1. Michael

    I think the fact that they needed to have alcohol present at the meeting set a bad example for the public. It makes us look like an alcoholic society. At the same time, I can see how it might not be taken as such a big deal. Either way, it’s great that everyone was able to get along and put the differences aside.

  2. Michael Bischoff

    Thanks for writing about this, Howard. Since it happened, I’ve been curious to know your take on it. Describing the meeting as restorative practice, rather than restorative justice makes sense to me–a way to acknowledge the breakthrough in public dialogue while also acknowledging the additional layers of restoration and justice that are needed.

  3. Jan Sunoo

    Thoughtful observations, Howard.
    Just as Obama’s first intervention in the Middle East was to send George Mitchell on a “listening mission”, this latest “beer summit” was another action that models to all of us a a welcome change in the White House to a more constructive path to conflict resolution. And, yeh, the beer thing was a little too “just plain folks” for me…but shouldn’t overshadow the overall positive act.

  4. Kris Miner

    This issue really got the attention of Restorative Justice bloggers.

    My post had to do with the “beer” being of issue, as Micheal commented above.

    Janine Geske made an excellent point, a neutral facilitator and having the 911 caller present would have been more restorative.

    Lisa Rea and Loreen Walker posted on it as well. Chris Hardie blogged about the Obama/Gates/Crowley situation and promoted Restorative Justice in his blog about community building.

    In the last 11 months of restorative justice blogging and reading other RJ blogs, this was the first issues I have seen threading through them. It’s fun to compare our different opinions and thoughts this way. I am glad the use of social media and restorative justice is growing.