Sharon Goens-Bradley

Sharon is a queer Black woman from rural Michigan and is a spouse, daughter, mother, friend, and racial justice advocate. She is also a huge believer in the power of transformation through healing and restoration. Sharon values restorative justice because it offers a compassionate approach to harm: it humanizes those who cause harm, while also holding them accountable. Sharon is the associate regional director for the American Friends Service Committee’s Midwest region. She is passionate about undoing racism through education, using decolonization practices, and facilitating healing from historical trauma. Sharon is a Circle keeper, has facilitated and participated in restorative justice conferencing, and has been trained as a mediator. She holds a BA in Russian language and literature and an MA in counseling psychology. Sharon loves to travel, walk, read, and cook and lives with her wife and daughter in Minneapolis.

“Breaking Racism’s Insidious Grip on Restorative Practices: A Call for White Action”

This article features an analysis of where restorative justice is and the challenges it faces from the perspective of a longtime practitioner of color. Like other contributors in this volume, Goens-Bradley references White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, a White diversity trainer, in her call for Whites in restorative justice to act for racial and social justice. Goens-Bradley takes sharp aim at “white body supremacy,” a term introduced by Resmaa Menakem, Black, author and leader in trauma research. White body supremacy manifests in the physical experiences of RJ: White Circle keepers (CK), White restorative justice coordinators (RJC), and White-dominated restorative justice or restorative practices organizations, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Goens-Bradley details the disparities in restorative practices that inevitably follow. She notes that restorative practices, while solid conceptually, are found wanting in practice along racial justice lines. Her critique challenges restorative practices, for example, to go beyond diverting Youth of Color and Indigenous Youth (YOCIY) from behaviors that a mainstream perspective deems harmful and to actively divert YOCIY from white body supremacy— the root harm that YOCIY suffer.