There is a movement afoot. It is called the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation movement where like-minded people have come together from all walks of life to address the historical and contemporary effects of racism. Not only is this movement concerned with the effects of racism found in social, economic and government policies, it is also concerned with the deeply held and often unconscious beliefs created by racism and in particular the belief of a “hierarchy of human value.” It is this belief which has fueled racism and conscious and unconscious bias throughout American culture. Therefore the purpose of this movement is to engage people, and to encourage discourse in this country that will bring people together as opposed to allowing the continuation of segregation and racism that tears us apart.
The TRHT framework was first developed in 2016 under the guidance of Dr. Gail Christopher at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 176 community and civic leaders, scholars and practitioners informed a year-long design process. An important part of the framework was to challenge the belief in a hierarchy of human value based on race by developing transformative approaches to community-based healing. It has been implemented in a wide variety of communities, including on university campuses.
To support this movement, in May of 2023 Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California announced the reintroduction of her legislation calling for the establishment of the first United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation. The commission will examine the effects of slavery, institutional racism, and discrimination against people of color, and how our history impacts laws and policies today.
Congresswoman Lee said in a press release: “As truth commissions continue to be established in cities across the country and countries around the world, the need for our own here in the United States grows more and more apparent. We know that more work must be done to achieve true racial equity for our communities. These legislative efforts will educate and inform the public about the historical context for the current racial inequalities we witness each day, usher in a moment of truth, and take necessary steps toward rooting out systemic racism in our institutions. Only then will we repair past harm and build a more just nation for every individual.”
This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of members of Congress and community partners. Over 240 organizations and individuals have endorsed the resolution, including the NAACP and Leadership Conferences on Civil Rights and Human Rights.
The Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation movement is a wonderful example of a political forgiveness process which focuses on all levels of society. It begins with people coming together in a healing capacity and engaging in conversation within a given community. People share their stories and lay bare the awful truths of what has happened in their lives, breaking the denial which has held a strong grip on our society. These stories help us get in touch with our humanity and help us get to know each other as human beings. When we peel away the layers of fear, guilt, and anger — which is part of a political forgiveness process — we get in touch with our humanity and begin to relate to each other differently and in a more compassionate way. We also need to learn how to walk in the shoes of the “other.”
By dealing with what has happened, walking in someone else’s shoes, and by healing our own emotions that block us from feeling someone else’s pain, we can shift the narrative and our behavior. It is about our humanity, seeing ourselves in one another, to genuinely caring for one another, and having empathy that goes beyond who we identify with. That is the work which needs to be done. And if we can help heal the suffering and hurt of ourselves as well as others, we are on the road to heal society and to build a stronger foundation for a more inclusive and just society.