This is the Last Time You’ll Hear Us Mention Amy Cooper
You may have seen some news reports this week and last about the disposition of the now infamous Amy Cooper case, in which it was described as restorative justice. While Restorative Justice Initiative has no direct connection to the case, the five therapy sessions that Amy Cooper was mandated to attend are not restorative justice by any definition.
I never wanted to make public statements about this case in the context of restorative justice. Unfortunately, because the prosecutor originally described the diversion program as restorative justice, many news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CBS repeated that language without question and as a result, some of us felt the need to correct the record.
But, this is not really the conversation we should be having. There’s so much more to say about this case and the historic and systemic racialized harms that underly it…
and whether meaningful accountability processes are ever possible in the context of an adversarial justice system…
and whether we are truly committed to non-punitive responses to harm regardless of the nature of the harm and the harm doer.
But as restorative justice practitioners and advocates, we often find ourselves reacting and responding to systems, which literally define the terms of the debate. I encourage you all to step back, reflect, and ask yourselves what questions should the press be asking about this case that they’re not currently? What questions should the press be asking about restorative justice that they’re not currently and what stories should they be telling?
I encourage you to write letters to the editor whenever you see a story about RJ, or a mischaracterization of RJ, or about a missed opportunity for RJ. (There’s an online tool for that here.)
And I encourage you to write about your experiences. The media and our government institutions need to hear from New Yorkers with deep knowledge of and experience in this work. We need to be doing more than correcting the record.
We need to be asking the questions and setting the terms of the discourse.