While reading excerpts from Books of the Living, the idea of how people should act together as a community really struck me. Lauren truly lived by that mentality because she would gather everyone in Acorn for a weekly meeting and whenever something was proposed, all would discuss it. Objections would be heard out, and there would be discussions and votes.
In small communities, she believed, people are more accountable to one another. Serious misbehavior is harder to get away with, harder even to begin when everyone who sees you knows who you are, where you live, who your family is, and whether you have any business doing what you’re doing. (171)
This idea about communities reminds me of Andrea Smith’s Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, specifically how we must work as a community to make a new justice system apart from jails, because jails are just growing bigger and there is, at times, no true justice. It’s not a good justice system. One proposed idea was something like Olamina’s–accountability, but this is something that would only work in small communities without much travel.
In Conquest, Smith’s approach to gendered violence calls for domestic violence prevention and survivor support strategies that are based in community accountability and remedying economic injustices that make women of color more vulnerable to abuse and less able to leave abusive homes or partners. This model means creating communities that are educated about domestic violence, intervene in abusive situations, hold abusers accountable, and materially support survivors. The long-term goal of such a model would be to build “communities where violence becomes unthinkable” by fostering real communal consequences for and responses to abuse.
Smith acknowledges the serious obstacles that arise in community-based responses and putting it into practice effectively:
Sometimes it is easy to underestimate the amount of intervention that is required before a perpetrator can really change his behavior. Often a perpetrator will subject her/himself to community accountability measures but eventuality will tire of them. If community members are not vigilant about holding the perpetrator accountable _for years_ and instead assume he or she is ‘cured,’ the perpetrator can turn a community of accountability into a community that enables abuse.” (Conquest 164)
Much of what allows the abusers to get away with violence is community investment in preserving the group. Or rather, a particular understanding of group “safety” that often means that the safety of vulnerable members of the group (mainly women and children) is treated as less of a priority. In order to resolve this, Smith argues for a reversal of this mindset, into one where the wellbeing and safety of women and children (rather than the protection of abusers) are seen as central to the health of the community. (Conquest 175).