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Mia Mingus Advocates for Accountability4 minute read

Personal accountability paves way for future of transformative justice

Writer, educator and community organizer for disability and transformative justice Mia Mingus attended Humboldt State University March 6 as the keynote speaker for the Social Justice Summit. As a queer, physically disabled, Korean, transracial, transnational adoptee, Mingus faces adversity in all major facets of life and advocates for dignity and the end of violence, harm and abuse.

Mingus took the stage for an hour, discussing everyday transformative justice and how to achieve transformative justice on a societal level. Transformative justice is about finding alternative solutions to violence, harm and abuse outside of our punitive system.

“The system that we have is so based in, ‘You’re a bad person, so bad things deserve to happen to you,’” Mingus said. “Rather than, ‘We are all human, and human beings make mistakes, and we are all flawed, and we are all living in incredibly violent conditions.’”

“If you’re not proactively building accountable relationships in your life, you’re proactively building an unaccountable life.”

Mia Mingus

Instead of focusing on big picture questions, like what will replace our current system and how to end violence, Mingus insisted to focus on the ways that transformative justice can improve our own lives, and in return, impact the world.

“We can start small, because it’s just like building a muscle,” Mingus said. “You don’t go into the gym and start bench pressing 400 pounds immediately, or if you do, you’re gonna get really hurt.”

Mingus walked the audience through her four steps of accountability.

“If you’re not proactively building accountable relationships in your life, you’re proactively building an unaccountable life,” Mingus said.

“It doesn’t matter how good of an apology you gave or how well you repaired the relationship. If you keep doing the harm, what does it matter?”

Mia Mingus

For the first step of accountability, Mingus said we must possess self-reflection, without which you can’t achieve any transformative justice.

Second, we must be capable of genuine apology, demonstrating our remorse and understanding of our improper actions.

Third, we must be willing to repair and mend broken relationships and earn back trust.

Finally, we must change our behavior.

“It doesn’t matter how good of an apology you gave or how well you repaired the relationship,” Mingus said. “If you keep doing the harm, what does it matter?”

Transformative justice operates under the belief that acts of violence are deeply connected to the conditions that helped create and perpetuate those incidences of violence.

“That violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Mingus said. “They are connected to the conditions that we live in, and we all participate in creating those conditions, and we all have a collective responsibility for ending violence, harm and abuse.”

“It’s not enough just to change the systems that we’re up against. We also have to change ourselves, and I really appreciate that.”

Mia Mingus

As a society, Mingus said we need to practice preventative actions, rather than respond with punishment.

“When we publicly shame people, or when we shame and blame people in general, it doesn’t actually get the violence to stop,” Mingus said. “It usually just teaches people how to hide the violence or harm better. It doesn’t actually make the kind of deep fundamental change that we actually want.”

After her lecture, Mingus elaborated on fundamental change in an exclusive interview with The Lumberjack.

“It’s not enough just to change the systems that we’re up against. We also have to change ourselves, and I really appreciate that,” Mingus said. “And vice versa, you know, it’s not enough just to change yourself. You have to also help change the world too because I think that’s where the magic lives.”

Mingus said transformative justice focuses on the fundamental improvements that must be made along the way.

“We’re working on a micro level but we’re doing it with a macro perspective because we’re actually trying to interrupt generational cycles of violence and harm,” Mingus said. “That’s the goal.”

Mingus gave a final piece of advice for helping with world progression.

“Learn as much as you can, give as much as you can,” Mingus said. “But like, generally, just start from where you are, with what you have, and don’t get overwhelmed by trying to change the whole world.”

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