In Remembrance

Grieving With El Paso and Dayton

El Paso ShootingIn the wake of heightened mass shootings in our nation over the past couple of weeks, the NACRJ wants to extend full solidarity to all families and communities that have been deeply harmed by these recent tragedies. We stand with you, and we search for models of response that bring healing, accountability, and the prevention of future incidents.

The NACRJ would like to share this heartfelt statement written by our Executive Director, Dr. Michael J. Gilbert on the mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH.



Grieving those Lost in El Paso and Dayton:  Thinking about the Future 

By Michael J. Gilbert


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My mind and emotions have been in turmoil since learning of the mass shooting on Saturday (Aug. 3) in El Paso, TX, with 22 dead (24 wounded) and another in Dayton, OH, with 9 more people killed (27 wounded) the next day.  The scale of the harm to victims and their communities is enormous, devastating, and it will leave a painful legacy. Just thinking about the depth of their loss and its human impacts brings tears to my eyes. It is heart-breaking.  

While the motivation for the Dayton incident is not yet known, the motivation for the El Paso shootings is explicit.  It was an expression of hatred toward “the other” because of personal differences which the assailant had been led to believe posed a “threat”.  He posted a white supremacist statement echoing political language used to stoke fear of and hatred for Mexicans, arguing that immigrants crossing the southern border was an “invasion” by “criminals.”  The effect of that narrative is to dehumanize all people of Mexican or Hispanic ancestry. Such narratives are used to define vulnerable minority groups as “others” who are “less than”. These kinds of narratives have been used many times in American history to solidify white power and motivate discriminatory policies and laws against non-whites.  The same narratives have and continue to foster white supremacist acts of violence against non-whites defined as less human and a threat.  The purpose served is to “teach them a lesson”, “keep them, in their place,” or “drive them out”.  

Such narratives can destroy a free, civil and inclusive society.  We must recognize, understand and oppose these narratives as a tool of demagogues seeking to attain power by any means necessary.  They are a destructive rationale for the oppression of minorities and serves the interests of the dominant group. They also provide a handy rationale for violent actions directed against dehumanized groups perceived as a threat.  

The National Association of Community and Restorative Justice was created to promote safe, just, equitable and sustainable communities.  This vision is based on principles of respect, dignity and value of all people regardless of their differences. We denounce all forms of racism and oppression based on the dehumanization of others due to race, ethnicity, gender, physical differences, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic.

Evidence world-wide suggests that community and restorative justice practices could be effective approaches to healing the legacy of historical harm and injustice rooted in the dehumanization of people based on personal characteristics.  Similarly, evidence suggests that community and restorative justice may be effective in preventing and responding to new incidents of dehumanization such as the gun violence in El Paso and Dayton. 

Simply stated, active listening and the sharing our stories in safe spaces promotes understanding, light, and awareness of our common humanity across the full range of human diversity.  

As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

The National Association of Community and Restorative Justice stands with and in support of the victims and their communities in El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH, and all other places of recent violence by shootings.