Discrimination, hostility and outright violence against women, against minorities, against people with disabilities, against the poor and the homeless, against people on probation and parole, against immigrants waiting for a pathway to citizenship and against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community are an epidemic in our country. The response to such discrimination must be twofold: legal and social-psychological.
The third phrase of the one single sentence that introduces the Constitution of the United States is “establish justice.” I believe in justice for all, equal rights for all, freedom of choice and the right to privacy. I question why the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, Labor and Commerce do not more forcefully address discrimination and violence in all its forms and across all domains of government and society.
The American values of fairness and justice must be reflected in our laws, policies and programs at national, state and local levels. Social media is playing a larger and larger role revealing injustice in everyday actions – including the tragic consequences of domestic violence, sexual harassment, our overly militarized law enforcement and the disproportionate criminal justice entanglement of young adults of color. Furthermore, “Indiana” may forever be a catchphrase for masking discrimination under the guise of freedom of choice. As a democracy, we must continually work to improve the way our laws and policies reflect our values of justice and equality.
Strengthening justice and equality in 21st century America is more than a set of laws, policies and programs. It is also about peacebuilding. The power of small-group, face-to-face dialog is the ability of participants to see beyond themselves, to view the world as others do and in that way to strengthen our shared understanding of diversity.
I believe in the power of face-to-face dialog. Hearts and minds only change when a few people with different points of view sit down and talk about their lives and beliefs. In that field of energy generated by face-to-face dialog, hostility attracts analysis and pain attracts support. Within those group dynamics, a higher level of understanding and appreciation for diversity may take shape. Peacemaking brings together people on opposing sides for face-to-face dialog that taps deep and powerful patterns of balance and rhythms of harmony.
In this way, strengthening justice and equality is a matter of both law and heart.