Equity through Learning to Listen: The Case of Public Discussion on Body-Worn Cameras in Madison, Wisconsin
The 17-page article, Equity through Learning to Listen: The Case of Public Discussion on Body-Worn Cameras in Madison, Wisconsin, was written by Katherine Cramer and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, Cramer discusses the process around gathering public input on whether the Madison police department should implement body-worn cameras on their officers. She gives details around the context for the process and the four lessons learned throughout the whole experience.
Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.
From the article…
We expect deliberation to achieve many things—better-informed opinions, tolerance, efficacy, well-rounded decisions, and decisions that have legitimacy (e.g., Barabas, 2004; Fishkin, 1995; Gastil, 2000; Jacobs, Cook, & Delli Carpini, 2009; Karpowitz & Mendelberg, 2014; Mill 1859 ). Deliberation supposedly enlarges our ability to incorporate moral values into governance (Gutmann & Thompson, 1996); enables an enlightened interpretation of the general will (Mansbridge, 1999); and increases the legitimacy of the decisions reached (e.g., Young, 2001). The expected democratic benefits of deliberation are numerous. But each of those outcomes relies on a particular quality: that a range of people and perspectives be included in the discussion. This means that ideal deliberation should involve equality of access as well as equality of who talks and who gets heard (Mansbridge, 1999; Mendelberg & Oleske, 2000).
But ensuring these things is difficult. As with all political participation, people with resources, particularly income and education, are more likely to show up. Also, people within social networks of politically active people are more likely to be recruited to participate (Jacobs, Cook & Delli Carpini, 2009; Ryfe & Stalsburg 2012; Verba, Schlozman & Brady 1996). Even when people representing a wide range of perspectives are in the room, deliberative processes privilege the views of privileged people (Sanders, 1997; Young, 2001).
Nevertheless, the belief endures that democratic governance is best achieved when people inform the decisions that affect them, and so the field of deliberative democracy continues to strive for ways to incorporate marginalized voices into the process to enable democracy to live up to its promise.
This brings us to the concept of equity. If striving for equality of access, and equality of voice and authority within deliberation is not enough, then perhaps it is time to focus on equity—intentional inequality such that those typically marginalized have the opportunity to voice their preferences and perspectives in all of their complexity, and have those concerns, with all of their nuances, enter into processes of democratic decision-making. Perhaps as a society we are still relatively unskilled at listening to one another. In order to input a wider array of perspectives into the discussions that affect our decisions about how to govern one another, we need to first exclude the voices that typically get heard, and then teach those in power how to listen to that who do not.
This possibility seems particularly acute in the United States with respect to issues concerning racial justice. Race has been a powerful line of exclusion/inclusion in the United States for centuries and these categorizations contaminate deliberative processes as well (Cramer Walsh, 2007). How then does a community use a deliberative approach to move toward racial equity? (more…)