I wrote a blog post for the Penn Press Log about the potential of a U.S. truth and reconciliation commission.
Today, we have a guest post from Abena Ampofoa Asare, who teaches Africana studies and history at Stony Brook University and is author of the new book Truth Without Reconciliation: A Human Rights History of Ghana. In this post, Asare draws upon her research to examine the relevance of calls for a truth and reconciliation commission in the United States today.
Is it time for a U.S. truth and reconciliation commission?
The calls for a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) on U.S. soil are mounting. Last year, the New York State Poor People’s Campaign’s “Truth Commission on Poverty” collected testimonies about economic hardship in one of the wealthiest states in the nation. In 2013, Ben Jealous, then of the NAACP, suggested that a formal TRC process might be necessary to investigate lynchings in the US South, the criminalization of Black liberation movements, and other unresolved histories of racialized violence. In December 2015, the Lakota People’s Law Project launched a campaign to establish a TRC about the 1869 Indian Boarding School Policy that removed thousands of American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families in order to force assimilation. In February 2018, actor Minnie Driver’s op-ed in the New York Times called for a TRC as a viable next step for the #MeToo movement. Just three months later, The New Republic’s Kevin Baker described a TRC on U.S soil as a once “outlandish” idea, whose time—with the advent of Trumpism—had finally come. “Americans must,” he wrote, “at some point, decide on which truths we still find self-evident.” On August 21, 2018, on the first day of the national prison strike, a friend posted on social media about the need for a TRC to address the 1971 murder of George Jackson at San Quentin State Prison.
These calls for a public accounting of the violence afflicting our body politic peal out from different quarters. For some, the unresolved national trauma is as old as this country’s birth in blood and water. For others, recent political dynamics require new mechanisms of redress. Clearly the idea of a TRC compels very different constituencies. Why? What might truth and reconciliation create on American soil?
Read more at the Penn Press Log here.