Prof leading 'racial healing' commission says 'racial reconciliation' is 'not applicable'
Several professors are starting a “United States Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation” movement (USTRHT) to permanently eliminate “persistent racial inequities.”
The group is pushing Senator Cory Booker and Representative Barbara Lee to start an official “Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation” for the United States.
Professors from leading universities launched the “United States Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation” movement for purposes of “racial equity advocacy," as one professor involved with the project told Campus Reform that "racial reconciliation" is "not applicable" to the United States because it was conceived in racism."
According to a recent press release, the group’s leadership supports a resolution from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.), calling for the formation of a “United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation."
“This event 400 years ago was significant not only because it ushered in the institution of chattel slavery of African Americans, but also because it facilitated the systematic oppression of all people of color that has been a devastating and insufficiently understood and acknowledged aspect of our history over these past 400 years, and that has left a legacy of this oppression that haunts us to this day,” the resolution stated.
The United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation would endeavor to permanently eliminate “persistent racial inequities.”
The leader of the USTRHT Leadership Group is Marcus Hunter, a sociology and African American studies professor at the University of California-Los Angeles.
Charles Chavis, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, will also serve on the leadership team for the project. According to his personal website, Chavis offers consulting services related to “systemic racism,” “narrative change,” “historical trauma,” and “centering marginal voices.”
Chavis is joined by fellow George Mason professor Antti Pentikäinen, who leads the university’s Mary Hoch Center for Reconciliation. Ida Jones of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and Lopez Matthews of Howard University in Washington, D.C. will also advise the group.
In a comment to Campus Reform, Chavis compared the USTRHT to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was formed after racial segregation under apartheid.
“Scholars, such as Anthony Marx and the late George M. Fredrickson, have highlighted the similarities and differences in the various representations of systemic anti-Blackness within South Africa (Apartheid) and the United States (Jim Crow),” said Chavis, who explained that “USTRHT was not only informed by the TRC, but it was also informed by the work of Truth Commissions from throughout the world and the United States.”
Chavis also cast doubt upon the notion that racial reconciliation could ever be fully achieved in the United States.
“With that being said, the South African TRC was undoubtedly transformative as it helped prevent a Civil War, exposing Whites to the systemic realities of anti-Black violence and police brutality, yet it prioritized reconciliation,” he explained. “The USTRHT on the other hand prioritizes racial healing and social transformation rather than reconciliation, which in the United States context, is not applicable, as the concept of reconciliation suggests that harmony or friendly relations can be restored in a post-conflict society.”
Though “in some cases this may be possible,” Chavis stated that in the United States — despite its “constitutional commitments” to equality — has never experienced “such harmony and friendship...as our nation and its founding principles were conceived in racism, anti-Blackness, sexism, and the exploitation of indigenous people.”
The USTRHT is, therefore, “committed to bipartisanship and prioritizes transformation, taking a systems approach that seeks to salvage the narratives of the oppressed and to promote a collective commitment to social, legal, educational, and economic reform, that is not rooted in a ‘belief in a racial hierarchy,’ but one that is rooted in acknowledging the humanity in all people.”
Chavis says that the “Biden-Harris administration has a unique and historic opportunity to guide our nation toward racial healing and social transformation.”
George Mason University undergraduate student Hunter Canaday approved of the professors’ involvement in the project.
“I do believe the U.S. is fundamentally and systemically racist,” he said. “It was built, and still benefiting, from the exploitation of minorities all while ‘White washing’ history taught in the U.S. public schooling systems," Canaday told Campus Reform.
He added that he does not “see anything wrong with” forwarding the narrative that America is a systemically racist country.
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