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The Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Movement: A Political Forgiveness Process in Action

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. Therefor 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 Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey recently announced the reintroduction of their legislation calling for the establishment of the first United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT). 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. As Senator Booker said, “to realize our nation’s promise of being a place for liberty and justice for all, we must acknowledge and address the systemic racism and white supremacy that have been with us since our country’s founding and continue to persist in our laws, our policies and our lives to this day.” This legislation goes hand in hand with what the goals of the movement are and as Booker also commented, “this is the necessary first step in beginning to root our systemic racism in our institutions and for addressing and repairing past harm and building a more just nation for every American.”

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 as get to know each other as truly human beings. When we can peel away the layers of fear, guilt and anger which is part of a forgiveness process we can 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 which blocks us from feeling someone else’s pain we can change the narrative and how we behave. It is about our humanity, to see ourselves in one another, to genuinely care for one another to have 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.

For more information on political forgiveness please visit www.drborris.com.

 

The Beginning of a New Way Forward

As Charles Dickens once wrote in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worse of times.” Could this be true for us? We are coping with a pandemic and dealing with deep divisions and issues of racial injustice which are profound. Parallels have been drawn between what is happening now and during the Civil War. So where are “the best of times?”

Crisis brings opportunities. Out of our pain can come healing. We know healing begins with truth telling and accountability and fortunately we have models from around the world which we can learn from. The most notable comes from the work of Nelson Mandel and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Although this commission had many flaws it is also a model which can teach us many things. Other models are emerging such as the work being done in Colombia with their truth commission. One of the most interesting aspects of this work is how it views different forms of the truth and works with the differing perceptions. Closer to home is the work done in Canada and their truth and reconciliation commission which provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system with an opportunity to share their stories and experiences.

A new way forward is about transformation. It takes time and a critical mass to get there. Unfortunately, our culture has de-valued many of its citizens and so our work begins with remembering our humanity, our inner-connectedness and what it means to be a human being. It means zero tolerance for any kind of violence. In this country what we must grapple with is the ideology of racism and violence and the denial of humanity for different groups of people. The work must be comprehensive and work on all levels of society. People need to change mind sets, communities must come together and heal, and there needs to be resources and commitment on the governmental level to change structures in society so what we are now experiencing can never happen again.

Can the worse of times become the best of times? Can we embrace this moment of crisis in a healing capacity as a country so we can go forward with a new vision of who we must be as a nation and have the capacity to demonstrate empathy and care for one another, showing that we value one another? Can we transform our structures to be inclusive instead of exclusive? What I have just described is the work of political forgiveness. In practicing forgiveness politically, we can grow in compassion and empathy and out of that can develop a new culture based on our humanness. This IS our way forward and gives us an opportunity to make profound changes in our society.

For those interested in learning more about political forgiveness please go to my website www.drborris.com. Feel free to sign up for the monthly newsletter which shares information and stories on political forgiveness when you go to the website.

Loving Kindness

It has been a very emotional time – one with a lot of pain and suffering for some, and for others we have witnessed a lot of anger and hate. With the threat of the pandemic worsening, with presidential elections coming up and with the divisions within our country becoming deeper there is something all of us can do – be kinder and more loving towards each other. We need this more than ever before.

I often speak of political forgiveness and its importance in the healing of any nation. Political forgiveness may sound very abstract but in fact it requires all of us to participate if we care enough to make our country a better place. It begins with changing our mindsets, so we do not automatically respond to what we see in anger or in a self-centered way of being. There is too much of this. We need to focus more on responding to one another with greater understanding, empathy, and compassion. In the trying times that we are living through these are the qualities that are so needed if we want to participate in the healing of this nation.

Much healing is necessary in the United States especially concerning our racial divide, yet we do not need to wait for a healing mechanism to be put into place for this to happen. It must begin with each one of us changing our mindsets. We need to get out of this rut of a kind of thinking based only in self-interest and recognize that what is really important is how we care for one another. This is the only way we can move forward in a positive direction and get through these difficult times. We must develop a social consciousness, come together, and care for each other.

We have heard over again – what kind of Americans do we want to be? We are at a crossroads and what happens depends on each one of us. We all matter. Who do we really want to be? The choice is ours. I for one, choose to see this world with greater understanding, empathy and compassion. This is the mindset I choose to adapt to and give more energy to. It is a mindset that will support a healing process and one which begins to lay the foundation for a political forgiveness process to take hold in this beautiful country of ours. I hope more of you will do the same for together we can make an incredibly positive difference in this country and the world we are living in today.

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You Too Can Make a Difference

True forgiveness is a complex and prolonged evolutionary process. When forgiveness is seen within a political process separate from but also interwoven with justice, apology, truth, and reconciliation it becomes more complex. Its enactment belongs entirely to the offended and is a courageous and powerful expression of unconditional acceptance and love that is an attempt to stop the transfer of hate from one generation to the next. A genuine individual and collective willingness to try to release the hurts of the past, accompanied by hope and determination to begin anew, can be argued to be a beginning point in this process. But what are the emotional roots of forgiveness, the source of feeling that makes it possible? And why is this so important to understand concerning the healing of nations? Any healing process including when it involves the collective begins with the individual. Individual healing builds the foundation for community healing to take place which ultimately supports structural changes, all of which encompasses a political forgiveness process.

 

 

The power of forgiveness of one person can have a great influence over many others and can even change an entire nation. For example, we have seen a profound change take place in South African when Nelson Mandela was able to bring his country together in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. And there have been others who although not so well known have demonstrated how their forgiveness has helped transform societies.

One such person is Irene Laure, a French woman who as a child during World War I suffered at the hands of the Germans and during World War II was part of the resistance movement against the Nazis saving as many lives as she could. She personally knew all too well the horrors of what the Nazis did and certainly had every right to be so angry as to want to see Germany destroyed. Then shortly after the war ended Irene attended a conference on reconciliation and it was there where she struggled and finally embraced the idea of forgiveness. The forgiveness process was so transformative that not only did this experience transform Irene, it had a profound effect on France as well. Irene spent the rest of her life helping to build the moral of the German women and spreading the words of forgiveness.

Political forgiveness is not just about the individual, it includes working on a community level and on making structural changes. One incredible program developed to heal the wounds of a community took place in Sierra Leone. Fambul Tok, “Family Talk” in Krio emerged in Sierra Leone as a face-to-face community owned program that brings together perpetrators and victims of the violence from Sierra Leone’s eleven-year civil war for the first time since the war ended. They meet through ceremonies rooted in the traditions of the villages affected by this violence. At evening bonfire ceremonies, victims give voice to their memories and perpetrators confess. They can ask for, and offer forgiveness, preparing the way for individuals and communities to forge a new future together.

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