Photo: Mike Von
Call for a United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation
On June 4, 2020, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced legislation calling for the establishment of the first United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT Commission). The TRHT Commission will examine the effects of slavery, institutional racism, and discrimination against people of color, and how that history impacts laws and policies today. The full text of the resolution can be found here.
The purpose of the TRHT Commission is to properly acknowledge, memorialize, and be a catalyst for progress toward ending the belief in a hierarchy of human value based on race, embracing our common humanity, and permanently eliminating persistent racial inequities.
If we act as if the past doesn’t matter, we are doomed to repeat the ugly truths of American history over and over again – that is the reason for the United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.
Can we fix the evil racist core at the heart of our government that bred hatred, division and exploited hundreds of millions of Americans for the betterment of a few? Of course, we can. History is full of such movements, where the voice of the people was all that was needed to topple corrupt governments, crush systematic oppression like apartheid and segregation, and create a new form of government based on our values of love, justice, and equality.
Our government was intended to be led by the people, for the people, which is exactly what we must do. And this time, we will ensure all people are represented, not just those in power who can most benefit from such a racist system.
#BREATHEWITHME Will Ensure that the TRHT Commission moves to:
- EXPOSE THE PAST: We want to ensure that Americans confront the racial past of the United States of America and explore the disastrous impact of the myth of “race” on black and brown people. We want to expose the way that the enslavement and disenfranchisement of African Americans and the genocide and dispossession of Native Americans continues to impact these American communities today and in the centuries before.
- ELIMINATE SYSTEMIC RACISM: We want to ensure that all Americans understand that systemic “racism” persists such that Americans both are complicit in and benefit from the current system. In this regard, we need to train people to see what “racism” looks like and offer them strategies of redress to confront it when it is explicitly or implicitly identified.
- ELIMINATE THE TOXIC CONCEPT OF “RACE”: We want to ensure all Americans that it is not only “racism” that needs to be addressed, but also the concept of “race” itself. This social construct has proven to be void of scientific, ontological, biological, or genetic validity. Even without deliberate racist intent, the concept of race, the toxic myth of significant difference between “racial” types alone has fostered an environment where rights, privileges, and benefits have been disproportionately apportioned to people based on perceived differences in the color of their skin.
- TRANSFORM THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: We will ensure that a light shines on the part of our criminal justice system that remains an ugly manifestation of a racialized system. In this regard, we need to consider the ways that “blackness” has been criminalized in the American mind, making it possible that excessive numbers of black and brown people are incarcerated or are victims of extrajudicial executions at the hands of our police officers.
- IMPLEMENT TRANSFORMATIONAL SOLUTIONS: We will ensure that an active exploration of bold and transformation solutions, including reparations, programs to end poverty, educational equity, universal health care and rewriting the Constitution.
How #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize support for the TRHT Commission?
- #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize notable leaders, commentators, educators, and journalists to support the TRHT Commission.
- #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize Pop culture figures to help lead public education on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation
- #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize leaders and in every field to support our campaign.
- #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize cities, local governments, and States and encourage them to mobilize their own TRHT’s to inform the national US-TRHT.
- #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize Young leaders throughout the country to support the TRHT process.
- #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize legislation in Congress and on the local and state level that will substantively address economic and social inequality, which disproportionately impacts people of color. And, legislation that has targeted goals both in ending poverty through jobs, housing, health care, and education for all legislation; and reforms needed in our criminal justice system to address institutional racism and violations of civil rights such as racial profiling, red lining, police brutality, and voter suppression.
- #BREATHEWITHME will call for town hall meetings and Commission hearings in places of worship and public squares such as City Council Halls, public schools, and community centers to change hearts and minds about race and economic inequality.
- #BREATHEWITHME will mobilize social media, smartphones and the web and will showcase the Commission and its findings in a 21st century way.
- #BREATHEWITHME will produce a major Broadcast documentary TV series on the issues Americans of color are faced with along with the historical context in which they were formed.
#BREATHEWITHME be fed by compassion, but we are unafraid to tell the truth with solutions to cure the decimation of the American spirit for people of color. We will foster the reinvention of America as a place where the truth of equality isn’t just a dream, but a fundamental truth enjoyed by all of its people.
STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT FOR A UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON TRUTH, RACIAL HEALING, AND TRANSFORMATION
Congresswoman Barbara Lee said: “This inequality is at the heart of every crisis we’re dealing with right now – the crises of police brutality and mass incarceration, the COVID-19 public health crisis which is disproportionately affecting communities of color, and the crisis of poverty excluding so many minority families from the American Dream. This is a matter of survival for countless Americans. Only by understanding our past, and confronting the errors that still haunt us today, can we truly move forward as a people and a country.”
Congressman John Lewis (GA-05) said: “The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Resolution puts us on the path of reconciling our nation’s brutal history with the grave situation we currently face. During the Civil Rights Movement, we studied and sought to realize the philosophy and doctrine of ‘satya,’ or truth, as the guiding force in our work to create a more equal and just nation for Black Americans. By creating a clear, indisputable, public record of the atrocities that African Americans and people of color experienced on a constant, daily basis, we were able to build a movement that transformed the face of our nation. We knew, however, that the roots of racism, bias, and centuries of socio-economic inequality are deep and require a thoughtful, inclusive, and comprehensive effort. This resolution moves our country in the right direction of establishing a model and process to explore, expose, confront, and reconcile the truths of our past so that we may create a more just and equitable future for all, not just a select few.”
Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair, Congressional Black Caucus said: “We must address these racial issues with a full understanding of the emotional, psychological, and economic impact racial injustice has caused our communities for generations. At this pivotal moment in our country, we must heed the national outcry for change and respond with comprehensive legislation to get us there.”
Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01), Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus said: “The pain our country feels is rooted in generations of institutional racism. People of color are dying unjust deaths at the hands of power abusers. Whether it be the abuse of power that poisons the air and water surrounding communities of color, taking away protections for undocumented young people, underfunding Tribes putting them at disproportionate risk during a pandemic, or police brutality that kills unarmed black people, we must untangle the racist webs that are woven into our laws and policies. The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Resolution takes a step to fully examine how slavery and racism have impacted laws and policies on the books, so that we can take action.”
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) said: “Our nation has witnessed a horrific week of events that has left communities mourning. After more than 400 years of oppression in America, Black men continue to be targeted, Latino families continue to be separated, and all persons of color continue to be marginalized. More than 100,000 individuals have died during a pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on communities of color at far greater portions. It’s time for action and effort from each of us, together and united to ensure that the change we see happening around the country today is different. There has to be urgent resolve and healing because we cannot afford to go back to business as usual in the face of such challenges.”
Rep. Grace Meng (NY-06) said: “The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Resolution comes at a most timely moment, as our nation faces, yet again, the structural and brutal racism that affects communities of color, especially African Americans. During this coronavirus pandemic, Asian Americans have been discriminated against and verbally and physically assaulted. When those attacks occurred, the African American community denounced those incidents and called for justice. Today, the Asian American community must stand in solidarity with them. Only together can we truly reconcile, heal, and transform our nation. I am proud to support this critical resolution, because our nation must come to grips with our ugly past – and present. We must acknowledge that our system is broken, and that we have to fix it. Ultimately, I want my children – all children – to grow up in a better world.”
Representative Jim McGovern (MA-02) said: “Justice and reconciliation must begin with serious self-reflection and an acknowledgment of the long and painful history of racism in America that has created the disparities we see today. For many of us, that means taking time to acknowledge how we have benefitted from systems of injustice and oppression and then working to uproot racism and discrimination whenever and wherever we see it in our lives. I am grateful to Representative Lee for introducing this legislation so we can begin to heal our country by acknowledging our past. I look forward to working with her to advocate for this important bill.”
Wade Henderson, former President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said: “Today, our nation faces its greatest challenge in the past century, not only about equity and fairness but also about the nation’s national security. The disparities and racial discrimination exposed by COVID19 and rampant police brutality are the fruit of a poisonous tree of slavery, racial bias, and structural discrimination. That tree – the tree of racism writ large – must be destroyed root and branch if we are ever to become the nation of our highest ideals. The first step in that process begins with a self-aware acknowledgment of the existence of the problem and a commitment to resolve it. The Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation is the first step of that important process.”
Former Rep. Tom Perriello, Executive Director of Open Society-U.S. said: “Every day offers new examples of the tragic cost racism imposes on our country. I’ve learned, from transitional justice work overseas and my time in office in Virginia, that hate left unchecked only repeats and escalates. That cycle is never broken without reckoning with the truth. America is long past due for an official process that acknowledges the pain and injustice of our past and present—the first step in building a more vibrant and inclusive future. The Open Society Foundations appreciates Chairman Lee’s leadership and supports this landmark resolution as a crucial first step toward healing and creating a better country worthy of its ideals.”