By Claire Crossett, Life Academy Teacher
Ask me what a peaceful community looks like, and I’ll be quick to generate adjectives: trust, open, respectful, kind, compassionate. They are words that are easy to rally around, and are relatively uncontroversial. I asked my students to tell me what they thought defined a peaceful community, and they told me largely the same thing. But then came the next question: how do we get there? The room went quiet with thought.
It’s not an easy answer to come to, and it’s certainly not as neatly packaged and delivered as the first. It’s easy to recognize peace, but much harder to create it. Often in our country, peace comes with a privilege that nobody acknowledges. Neighborhoods free of violence and crime are typically wealthier suburban communities that can afford to move away from urban unrest. But does that mean that peace is confined to wealth? Must a community first be homogenous in race, class, language, or belief to live harmoniously? The idea repulses me.
If we are going to make progress towards peace in a community that has been historically and systematically oppressed, we are going to have to begin a very honest dialogue. What creates community violence? What systems are in place that feed that violence, or contain it to one community? We need to think creatively about how to protect family structures, how to offer meaningful community employment, how to reenvision public education, how to promote preventative healthcare, how to engage our youth, how to facilitate conflict mediation, and how to celebrate cultural identity. Peace, I believe, comes from a feeling of belonging and promise. If those two elements can live in our neighborhoods, peace can begin to grow.
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