Beyond Social Justice

FVSU professor Dr. Kimberly Nelson is chosen to write book chapter on teaching cultural competency through the lens of restorative justice

Mar. 7, 2019

Dr. Kimberly Nelson, an associate professor of school counseling at FVSU, hopes the contribution she’s making to the body of knowledge on cultural competence will result in enhanced training for the next generation of counselors. Cultural competence, she said, is the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients by understanding the underlying issues.

Nelson, an assistant professor in the school counseling education program in FVSU’s College of Education, has been selected to contribute a chapter in a publication which will help higher education professors teach cultural competence to college students. The book will address how to talk about cultural competence within a multicultural class.

Nelson will address culture competence in concert with the idea of “restorative justice.” Restorative justice focuses on reinstatement, reconciliation, and restoration, particularly by repairing the harm done to victims and allowing the victims to participate actively in the resolution. Using this model, victims often communicate directly with the offender to explain a crime’s personal impact, and offenders take responsibility and work to make amends. It seeks to support victims of crime—and their associated emotional scars—by facilitating the healing process.

“The goal is to create dialogue and let the victim share their experience and reduce the likelihood of them (the perpetrator)offending again,” Nelson said. “Cultural competence is working with people, regardless of whatever background they come from, and understanding that we need to respect their culture. Students need to understand this so they can be
effective professionals in their fields.”

Historically, social justice as it relates to addressing the animosity circulating between young black men and police officers has had high visibility, Nelson said. While the national  conversation about restorative justice began several years ago, she noted, the chatter resurfaced within the past few years when racial tensions began to be politically refueled in the United States.

“I kind of feel like restorative justice is a push past social justice,” she said. “What I mean is that we should not stop at social justice. Restorative justice is the necessary next step to healing after a racial offense, where both sides are heard and differences can be reconciled. It is used as a tool for healing between the victim (often of a minority race) and the offender. We have to bring it back to life because families are being hurt. If we introduce restorative justice, we can bring healing to communities.”

Nelson said she gained the opportunity to be included in the book after receiving encouragement to submit a proposal from a colleague in a women’s writing group. The group’s members support each other in pursuing academic writing, a field largely dominated by white men.