“Accountability” as a term to describe restorative justice. The idea/definition of accountability are counter to how we think/talk about justice.
Accountability: required to explain actions or decisions to someone
Wikipedia: It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. “A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct”.
The idea conveyed by this term is that someone is holding another person accountable. When in fact restorative systems allow the author to hold themselves accountable or we (a whole community that includes the author) are holding everyone (ourselves) accountable (mutual accountability). RJ is the grounded in the philosophy that responsibility is met with action. If there is responsibility and no action there is no justice. Yet, when the author, who is responsible of the harm takes action to repair the harm… that is justice. It needs no authority, punishment, or forgiveness.
Our current discussions around police violence and communities of color tend to pit one group against the other. Communities of color are speaking (some demanding) about holding the police accountable. And, police departments demanding that everyone (read: people of color) follow police directions without question and we’ll sort it out after. Our communities of color are trying to exercises the same power dynamic over the police force. This becomes a common school yard argument you have to trust me… then I’ll trust you. When the more holistic solution would be for communities and police work together and build that trust and relationships. Largely everyone wants the same outcomes when it comes to community safety.
If RJ communities continue to use the term “accountability” we continue to support adversarial systems. The same adversarial system that got us into this mess in the first place.
(I am a person of color and support cultural competency work around the Puget Sound).