Promoting Radical Forgiveness

A mobile pop up museum, part of the Justice Fleet, made its way to the ASU campus this month to engage community members in discussions and activities around bias, social justice, and empathy. 

To facilitate that conversation, the Fleet’s exhibit focused on a concept called “radical forgiveness”: a fluid and deliberate process that seeks to repair the wounds that impede people from bettering the world. 

Brought to the ASU campus as a collaboration between the Transformation Project and I4C research initiatives in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, the interactive mobile museum encouraged discussion via “art, dialogue and play.”   

Spear-headed by Amber Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of communication at St. Louis University, the Fleet creates an experience that allows adults to learn how to play again and imagine.  The project asks people to build a community in which they would want to live, that tackles social injustice scenarios, like gender discrimination, racism, economic justice, food injustice, environmentalism, and education.   

Exhibit visitors at ASU took part in an art-activism project called the Forgiveness Quilt, where they share their own biases and seek forgiveness. 

Jennifer Linde, Senior Lecturer and Director of Online Learning 

and Benny LeMaster, Assistant Professor at the HDSHC viewing
the Forgiveness Quilt

Dr. Johnson says the goal is to create experiences to get people to think about systems, individuals or organizations that have traumatized them via implicit bias, or ways people traumatize others. 

“We ask them to paint their bias and ask for forgiveness, or point how others have been biased toward them and ask forgiveness.”

The quilt expands each time the Fleet visits a new community. 

Dr. Johnson’s visit also included a public talk, where it was explained that the idea for spreading radical forgiveness begins with witnessing and challenging the guilt an individual processes when they recognize their own privilege relative to those around you.

“It can be uncomfortable to witness and affirm the way one experiences privilege relative to others. What radical forgiveness does is presses us to affirm that privilege and accompanying discomfort and to transform guilt into action,” offers Dr. Benny LeMaster, assistant professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. They add, “the goal is to be more readily present with others and to oneself. To forge more intimate connections committed to social justice.” 

 “Radical forgiveness is about the idea that you don’t have to wait for anyone to apologize,” Johnson said.  “You can let things go but not absolve them from the consequences of their actions or behaviors.”