Healed People Heal People
We see the main focus of the ITM program as training students in trauma-informed care. We believe the best way to do this is to engage in our own healing process. In this section, credible messengers are recognized as and referred to as healers.
We take the restorative practices framework and combine it with lesson plans we adapted from research done by psychologists Kenneth Hardy and Tracey Laszloffy. We believe trauma can lead to violence. We see by engaging healers in their own healing process we in turn are helping mentees heal from past trauma. When mentees heal we reduce violence, recidivism, and improve quality of life for the young people we serve.
These core concepts of Devaluation, Erosion of Community, Dehumanized loss and Rage are first introduced in the course as tools for participants to better understand themselves and their experiences. These same concepts are then used by credible messenger mentors in working with others.
The most extreme human abnormality we believe is violence. “Violence involves a willful action (or inaction) that results in the intentional infliction of harm or injury” (Kenneth V. Hardy). When human behavior produces violence to ourselves or others, we have lost our humanity. We see violence as permeating our society - poverty, war, genocide, slavery, mass incarceration, suicide, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia are all acts of violence. These forms of violence harm not only our bodies but also our emotional and psychological well-being. Given, that most Credible Messengers are from impoverished backgrounds, are people of color and have been incarcerated, they have likely experienced multiple forms of violence and thus trauma. Following psychologists and authors of Teens Who Hurt, Kenneth V. Hardy and Tracey A. Laszloffy, we examine factors that lead people to violence.
In Teens Who Hurt, Hardy and Laszloffy identify four aggravating factors contributing to violent behavior: Devaluation; Erosion of Community; Dehumanized Loss and; Rage. Devaluation occurs when an individual or group’s dignity and worth are assaulted or denigrated. Erosion of community occurs when someone has no place where they feel they can belong or feel connected to others in a meaningful way and nowhere that they feel safe and secure. Dehumanized loss occurs when a person has unacknowledged, unmourned and thus unhealed loss. Rage isn’t just violent expressions of anger; rage is a normal human response to feelings of injustice, and the better our understanding is of rage, the better we are equipped to reduce acts of violence.
In this section we examine some of the policies and practices that are used to discriminate against and assault African-Americans and other marginalized groups. Our focus is specifically on state violence or state sanctioned violence against marginalized peoples. From chattel slavery to its modern day equivalents, we examine the ideological factors required to create and enforce oppression. We then come to our modern prison system and explore its relationship to chattel slavery.
As we explore violence we look at our history:
America was built on the deaths of Africans and Indigenous peoples. It is estimated that the violence of slavery caused tens of millions of African deaths. While the numbers vary based on different historical research, Africans were a critical piece in building American wealth. Africans provided the labor necessary to build this new country. Indigenous peoples had to be removed from their lands to make way for the new European settlers. Indigenous populations were wiped out of the Americas with estimates ranging from 80-100 million native deaths. Genocide was the tool that built America. War, displacement, disease, the slaughter of indigenous peoples and the destruction of their societies opened up the land for settlement and exploitation of resources.
Violence has remained a critical component of American culture. Violence pollutes all aspects of our society. The first American 12-reel film- Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith- depicts enslaved Africans as barbaric, stupid and sexually aggressive towards white women. These stereotypes still are present in the American psyche today and have influenced the stereotypes of African Americans and been used to justify their continual enslavement. It is precisely the criminalization of people of color that provides the justification for incarceration, enslavement and genocide. American culture glorifies violence in video games, television, music, sports, magazines, literature and in our history books.
We look at lynching, where public displays of dead black and brown bodies were normal during Jim Crow. During this period, attending a lynching was considered entertainment like going to see a baseball game. Then we look at the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments to understand how “normal” people are encouraged to be violent and abusive to others. We also examine the social factors that lead to such behavior.
Understanding how other groups have been marginalized and oppressed is critical to understanding societal devaluation and how these systems conspire to hurt and divide us. We look at the similarities and differences in how Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans and women of all ethnicities have been “othered” and abused. We challenge healers to think about the relationship between state violence and domestic violence. We look at how we as a society are complicit in mass violence.
Finally, we explore contemporary social movements. We look at income inequality and how it relates to racism, sexism, classism, ableism and environmental injustice. We challenge healers to think about justice: what it means to create social change and discuss - what are the most effective ways for us to heal our society from injustice, because injustice is violence.