Diversity in Community

| January 28, 2016

Diversity in Community
Order Description
This assignment is a way to begin exploring the concepts of this class and your relationship with them. For this paper, I want you to explore the following questions in a journal-like paper. Some of these questions may be difficult to answer, but show that you’ve considered the questions. Please cite class notes and class readings when discussing these concepts.
It should be 3 pages, 12 point Times New Roman font, double spaced, with standard 1 inch margins.
1. What is community? Think about how we’ve defined community and what community means to you.
2. What is diversity? What is the relationship between the 2?
3. What communities do you belong to? How are these communities organized and defined? How do you recognize diversity in those communities, if at all?
4. Think about yourself and your individual identity. How does that fit in with a collective identity of the communities you belong to? Consider esoteric and exoteric information.
5. What types of things do you wish to learn, explore, and come to understand about community throughout the course?
6. How is understanding community an important first step of a liberal arts education?
“CONTEMPLATING JUSTICE”
by
Gabrielle Davis
Copyright 2010
Just about 25 years ago, as I was preparing to graduate from Siena Heights College, one
of my most treasured professors, Sr. Pat Hogan, took me aside and said, “So, Gaby, just what
are you planning to do with the rest of your life?” I panicked. It was readily apparent that Sr.
Pat had given that question a lot more thought than I had. Worse still, I was pretty sure Sr.
Pat already had an answer, which I most certainly did not.
Feeling as if I had just stumbled onto the set of The Graduate, I desperately scanned my
surroundings for a much needed distraction. Finding none, I stammered for a couple of
minutes before offering a sheepish answer. “Gee, Pat, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll become a
teacher, like you.”
“Forget about that!” Pat insisted. “I think you should go to law school.” “Law school,” I
shrieked! “What do you mean I should go to law school? I want to lead a contemplative life!
I’m drawn to art and music and philosophy and literature! Law school is too competitive. It’s
too cut throat! I’ll be eaten alive! Besides,” I said, “lawyers have no scruples! How can you
even suggest such a thing?” By then, I was hyperventilating.
Pat told me to calm down. Then, she handed me a book. Treasures of the Vatican
Collections. It contained a catalogue of the major artwork housed in the Vatican Museums. I
recognized many of the works from the art history courses I had taken at Siena from Father
David Van Horn. As I leafed through the pages of photographs and color plates in Sr. Pat’s
familiar office in Sacred Heart Hall, my wise teacher reminded me that I’d been given a great
gift in a liberal arts education. She asked me to consider how privileged I’d been to concentrate
my undergraduate studies in the humanities. Sr. Pat maintained that I had an obligation –
maybe even a moral duty – to put that gift to work for people who hadn’t been as fortunate or
as privileged as I had been. And, what better way, Pat imagined, than to enter a profession
where I could help give voice to people whose voices were rarely, if ever, heard. I feared, at that
moment, that my fate had been sealed. “I’ll think about it,” I said.
Some time later, I took a closer look at the book Sr. Pat had given me on that fateful
day. In it, I found a handwritten inscription that read:
May your pursuit of wisdom be a continual source of comfort and joy that enables you to “act
justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.”
It was signed, “Affectionately, Pat Hogan, O.P.”
I recognized the quote in Pat’s inscription from the Old Testament Book of Micah. In
choosing that passage, Sr. Pat simultaneously honored my Jewish heritage, validated the
Adrian Dominicans’ commitment to peace and social justice, and gently urged me to public
service. Sr. Pat’s message, and particularly her method of delivering it, resonated with me
then, and has guided me ever since. Soon afterwards, I headed off to law school.
That moment is particularly memorable because it encapsulates the influence that the
Adrian Dominicans have had on me. Sr. Pat not only helped me decide what I was going to do
with my life, but she helped me define how I was going to live it. That was another gift.
Many years later, after I had graduated from law school and settled into a comfortable
corporate law practice, a friend asked me to accompany her to a Take Back the Night march.
Take Back the Night was then, and still remains, a local part of a global initiative to raise
awareness about violence against women. A group of about 50 or 75 women had gathered on
the courthouse lawn just before dusk. Some sang songs. Others played drums. There were
colorful t-shirts hung from clotheslines which, from a distance, appeared joyous and festive.
On closer inspection, I discovered that each shirt was created by a victim or survivor of violence
and bore witness to a different survivor story.
The stories revealed on the t-shirts were compelling and halting. I was drawn to the
colors and the lines and the words and the images depicted on the hand-crafted shirts. I was
horrified by the descriptions of violence, but also amazed at the strength and courage and hope
that were also part of the vivid shirt stories.
Later in the evening, after dark had fallen, the group closed in to a tight candlelit circle,
and, one by one, women began to tell their survivor stories. The accounts of domestic abuse,
sexual assault, stalking, and incest were harrowing. As I listened to story after story of
unthinkable crimes and inhuman cruelty, I began to recognize a theme I couldn’t bear to hear.
In one recounting after the next, women had turned to the law to find justice only to find
justice just beyond their reach.
One woman described how she had been held at bay by her machete-wielding boyfriend
while the police interrogated her about what she had done to provoke the attack. Another
woman explained how a prosecutor threatened to throw her in jail if she refused to testify
against her violent abuser. Another woman told of how a judge dismissed criminal charges
against the man who raped her when the judge learned that the rapist was the woman’s
husband. Yet another woman described how her newborn child was removed from her at the
hospital when a child protective services worker found out that the woman’s boyfriend had
battered her, though not her child.
That night, I learned something I couldn’t have discovered from my comfortable
corporate law practice. I learned that, for many women, justice isn’t measured by landmark
court cases or sweeping legislative reform, but by a couple of hours of restful sleep, perhaps, or
the relief in seeing a little one hop off the school bus at the end of the day. I learned that the
law is not as noble as those of us who practice it are taught to believe, and that, for many
women, especially marginalized women, the law is quite capable of doing more harm than good.
I learned that women’s experience of violence is as varied as the women who experience it, and
that a legal system that demands conformity to a one-size-fits-all solution for survivors of
gender violence is doomed to failure. That night, I learned that to “act justly, love tenderly and
walk humbly” as a lawyer would require much, much more of me than I had previously
thought.
I soon left my comfortable law practice and joined the faculty at my law school alma
mater. In keeping with the Adrian Dominican tradition, I
set a research agenda that was rooted in gender equity and social justice. Within a short time,
I established a domestic violence clinic where my students and I listened to and worked for
battered women and their children. In that way, I really did become a teacher, just like Sr. Pat.
My students and I assisted our local district attorneys prosecute crimes of domestic
violence, sexual assault and stalking. We helped survivors obtain orders of protection. We
secured new identities for battered women so they could escape detection by their abusers. We
defended battered mothers in ongoing custody struggles. We worked with law enforcement and
victim advocates to improve safety and accountability within our local coordinated community
response to domestic violence. And, we helped extricate survivors from dangerous
relationships so they could achieve self-sufficiency and personal autonomy.
Over the years, my students and I learned that while the law holds promise for
survivors of violence against women, it is an imperfect system. We learned that for every
survivor who achieves some semblance of justice, justice eludes many, many others. We
learned that the outcomes for battered women and their children are not likely to improve
without substantial improvements to the justice system itself. Over the years, we learned that
to “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly” as lawyers in this field would again require
much, much more of us.
In my own process of becoming, and through a habit of reflection that I developed in my
years at Siena, I often hearken back to Sr. Pat Hogan’s admonition. Although she isn’t here
anymore to ask what I plan to do with the rest of my life, the lessons I learned from Sr. Pat a
quarter century ago endure today. If, as I suspect, justice for battered women requires
substantial improvements to the justice system itself, then I am compelled to work toward that
end. I have recently, left my comfortable law school faculty position to join the Battered
Women’s Justice Project, a national domestic violence advocacy program. I embark on that
new adventure with Sr. Pat Hogan’s inspiration and the Adrian Dominican tradition as my
guide. That is yet another gift – one for which I am eternally grateful.

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