Restorative Justice: A Path Towards Healing From Political Bullying Rhetoric

Published: Friday, April 28th, 2023

This is a blog by Jenika Scott, a student in the Michigan School of Social Work who is researching the bullying rhetoric in politics and its impact on marginalised communities. Through her research, she is exploring how restorative practices can be used to repair some of the harm caused by this bullying rhetoric. 

As a restorative justice advocate, researcher, and change maker, I am passionate about exploring how political bullying rhetoric impacts marginalised populations and identifying effective strategies to tackle this problem. Political bullying rhetoric has become a pervasive problem in today’s society, causing fear, isolation, and exclusion among minority groups. The need for a more restorative approach to social justice has become increasingly urgent, and my research aims to provide insights into the potential of restorative social justice to help heal the harm caused by such negative rhetoric. 

What is Restorative Social Justice? 

Restorative social justice is an approach to justice that focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships between individuals and communities. It is a transformative approach that seeks to address the underlying causes of harm and promote healing and reconciliation. Restorative social justice recognizes that justice is not just about punishing wrongdoers, but also about healing the harm caused by their actions and promoting a sense of community and belonging. 

Impact of Political Bullying Rhetoric 

Political bullying rhetoric is a prevalent problem in today’s society. It is a form of communication that seeks to intimidate, coerce, and belittle others for the purpose of gaining power or influence. Political bullying rhetoric is often directed at marginalized populations, such as immigrants, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. For instance, a recent study by the American Education Research Association revealed a relationship between increased expressions of bias in political discourse and a surge in bullying among Virginia middle school students in school districts where voters favored the Republican presidential candidate. Prior to the 2016 presidential election, there were no meaningful differences in bullying and teasing rates between Democratic and Republican localities. The research suggests that young people are picking up on societal changes and biased language that are becoming more acceptable, and this is leading to a negative impact on students. One teacher states, “more people expressing more hostile views, being less concerned about the impact of their statements on other people, and kids picking that up from the media and maybe from their parents or other adults.” This can have a significant impact on individuals and communities, including increased feelings of fear, isolation, and exclusion (Grainger, 2018; Huang & Cornell, 2019; Medel-Herrero et al.,2021). 

My research seeks to highlight the importance of restorative social justice as one means of addressing the impact of political bullying rhetoric on marginalized populations. As part of this research, I will be hosting a panel discussion to collect information from community leaders, advocates, and experts in restorative social justice. These participants will be selected based on their expertise and experience in restorative justice and practices. I will use the information collected from the pre-surveys and the panel discussion to understand individuals’ experiences with bullying rhetoric in politics, how it has affected them or their communities, and what strategies they think could be effective in challenging bullying rhetoric and promoting more inclusive and respectful discourse. I asked questions about the role of media and social platforms in contributing to the use of bullying rhetoric in politics and the role of community organizations and advocacy groups in challenging this rhetoric. 

I anticipate that my findings will highlight the significant impact of political bullying and the need for restorative social justice practices as a powerful pathway for addressing the harm caused by such negative rhetoric. By bringing together those who have been harmed with those who caused harm, promoting dialogue about difficult issues, and making people aware of the impact of their words, restorative justice can help to challenge bullying rhetoric and promote more inclusive and respectful discourse. Through research, such as a panel discussion with community leaders and experts in restorative justice practices, we can identify effective strategies for combating bullying rhetoric and promoting social justice. Restorative justice can facilitate education, active listening, and a willingness to change problematic behaviors, while supporting restorative circles and promoting more inclusive and respectful discourse.

Implications for the Future 

My research will highlight the importance of restorative social justice in addressing the impact of political bullying rhetoric on marginalized populations. By promoting healing, reconciliation, and community building, restorative social justice can provide a powerful pathway for addressing this problem. As an organization that works to promote restorative justice, Why me? is one such organization that offers a variety of resources that can help support individuals and communities affected by negative bullying rhetoric. The resources that they offer include, but are not limited to, information about restorative justice practices, support services for victims of crime and conflict, and opportunities for advocacy and community engagement. 

This research will emphasize the need for greater awareness and understanding of the impact of political and generalized bullying rhetoric on marginalized communities. Through education and dialogue, we can work together to create a more inclusive and respectful discourses that promotes social equity and justice for all.

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