How We Learned (Are Learning) Transformative Justice

We survive, we learn, we have agency about our next steps.

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” – Audre Lorde

Finally, we became tired of the slaughter, tired of the taste of each other’s shame.

It made us sick you know. First you hunger for the taste of a stranger, then your enemy, then anyone called a leader, then any small difference will do. Your hands become sharp and your words become sharp and the only move available, even with beloveds, is bloodletting.

What we called justice back then was the death throes of a worldview, of divine monarchy, manifest destiny, supremacy. It is dying still, but now we have contained the death within ourselves. Inside, in the gardens where we “grow our souls,” in that soil, we are composting the final strains of this disease.

When we define ourselves, the result is complexity. We are none of us one thing, neither good nor bad. We are complex surviving organisms. We do appalling things to each other, rooted in trauma.

We survive, we learn, we have agency about our next steps.

We rise to great kindness, great bravery, rooted in lineage and dream.

“If you don’t trust the people, they become untrustworthy.” – Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching

We went through the untrustworthy age. It was hundreds and hundreds of years. Not trusting creates good soil for fear, terror. We were terrified of everyone, everything different than us. Our distrust was contagious, palpable. It seemed like everyone died. It seemed like we wept every day.

Then we remembered ourselves, remembered that trust is not earned – it is how we begin. It is the first thing we do. Learning to trust is returning to beginner’s mind, returning to our nature. We are meant to need each other.

We worked together to generate ways forward.

“We honor our ancestors by thriving.” – Dallas Goldtooth

We realized we didn’t know what we were doing, even the experts.

We turned to our personal relationships, to our families, our lovers, our closest friends, and we said to each other, “I want justice between us.”

We put down our masks and projections.

We began speaking to each other only truth.

We found a center within ourselves and began to listen there.

We cultivated curiosity.

Enough of us were in practice to be able to say the word community and mean it, not aesthetically, not based in shared oppression, but in our visionary practices of justice rooted in love, in connection.

We began to question our own actions, our participation in systems designed around our subjugation.

We relinquished judgment rooted in superiority. We shook off individual righteousness as a symptom of supremacy thinking. We were not better than each other. We worked together to generate ways forward.

We outgrew the survival technology of politeness-in-the-face-of-injustice, which had gotten us as far as it could get us, the presidency of nations. It could not get us to liberation, so we adapted.

Not all of us could be in one place, so we made room – room for many ways of being.

We learned to place our attention where we wanted it. When someone acted against community, instead of flooding them with our attention, we pulled collective attention away from them, while a healer would move in and give attention to that someone’s root system, supporting wholeness.

We learned what forgiveness lets us release, and how to use time to heal that which feels too painful to forgive.

We turned to look back at our traumas and understand how they shaped us. We created more room for the traumas of other people, for the weight of ancestral trauma.

We practiced deep patience with each other.

We created boundaries around our joy, around our love, around our children. Only offers of love could be felt, seen, heard, inhaled and tasted.

We accepted more and more pathways to change as not only legitimate but necessary.

“You’re nobody until you’re somebody to a bunch of other somebodies.” – Jimmy Boggs

We surrendered to how deeply we need each other.

All of us matter, to ourselves, to each other.


This post is part of the Black Futures Month blog series brought to you by The Huffington Post and the Black Lives Matter Network. Each day in February, look for a new post exploring cultural and political issues affecting the Black community and examining the impact it will have going forward. For more Black History Month content, check out Black Voices’ ‘We, Too, Are America’ coverage.