The Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance – in partnership with the School of the Arts and Architecture, Center for the Study of Women, and UCLA Disability Studies – presented Mia Mingus: “Transformative Justice 101” on Jan. 18, 2022. The virtual workshop offered a basic introduction to and overview of the core concepts of transformative justice and community-based responses to violence.
Mia Mingus is a writer, educator and trainer for transformative justice and disability justice. She is a queer physically disabled korean transracial and transnational adoptee raised in the Caribbean. She founded and currently leads SOIL: A Transformative Justice Project which builds the “soil” for transformative justice to grow and thrive.
Here are some top takeaways from WACD professor Dan Froot:
Mia outlined the problems that Transformative Justice (TJ) tries to address: Criminal accountability is not enough to end violence; prison is not offering positive transformation. Violence is a learned behavior. It has become systemic, generational, and normalized. State-sanctioned violence (military, police) functions to maintain power. It is interdependent with interpersonal/domestic violence. We are learning how to talk about state sponsored violence, but we need to build capacity for talking about intimate violence, and about the fact that we all cause harm. Most of us don’t know how to deal with having hurt or having been hurt. The strategy of report, report, report doesn’t work: often the person who was harmed cares about the person who harmed them, and wants to help them. So we need other strategies for addressing violence, and that’s where TJ comes in. TJ says yes to reclaiming traditional justice practices, but different types of violence require different responses, so in order to to keep up with technological and cultural changes, we need new strategies.
She then discussed the three pillars of TJ: the interdependence of individual and collective accountability, dedication to personal and political transformation, and response to and prevention of violence. Sometimes the best response is to prevent further occurrences. That’s why TJ does not rely on the state, and does not perpetuate systemic violence. It actively cultivates healing, accountability, and safety - including for those who cause harm as well as for bystanders. Elements of accountability include self-reflection, apologies, repair, and behavioral change. Community accountability focuses on providing safety and support to survivors, developing sustainable strategies for addressing harmful behaviors, creating and affirming positive values and practices, and transforming the political conditions that support the ethos of violence. TJ tries to transform the conditions that allow systemic violence to occur by bringing creative interventions to bear where there has been harm. Such interventions can take years. They ask all parties – harmers, harmed, and bystanders – to set goals: what outcome do we want? How do we support those who were harmed? Working as a team, how can we all be accountable moving forward? One of the problems with incarceration is that it removes people from relationships. Accountability can’t be accomplished by one person; it only happens in relationships, whether on an interpersonal or community level. Currently, we may not be able to respond to every harm in a TJ way. Survivors may not want TJ, and harmers may not be willing to be accountable. We have to build up TJ as a viable alternative in order to use it in more circumstances.