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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.

Stop the Insanity!

It was truly heartbreaking to see destruction taking place on the U.S. Capitol during what was supposed to be a procedural event to confirm president-elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Instead, what was demonstrated was anger and hatred incited by the president himself. Is this the America we want or are we willing to stop this insanity and begin a healing process that is so desperately needed in this country? We are seeing very clearly the healing which needs to take place within the United States. If we chose to shine a light on the darkness within society and take responsibility for our actions perhaps something good can come from this.

 To heal the political divisions in this country we need to be honest. We need to know the truth and dismantle the conspiracy theories. Why is this so important? In Timothy Snyder’s book, On Tyranny Snyder spells out important lessons we need to learn and how to preserve a fragile democracy. He describes a trajectory of how authoritarian regimes begins to form such as in creating an alternative reality, dismantling the truth, and introducing doubt in a democratic system. Therefore, truth telling becomes extremely important in the healing process of any nation and especially when people continually lie for political gain, they need to be held accountable. We need to recognize that none of this happens without a concerted effort to support an alternate reality from the very beginning. And finally, how this story is recalled in the future is going to matter a great deal for our country. We need to remember who were on the side of this alternate reality, who perpetuated lies and who encouraged the insurrection by domestic terrorist. The way out of this situation is to tell the truth, and for people to be held accountable. Truth and accountability are necessary in the long-term process of healing this nation and go hand in hand.

I often speak of forgiveness on a political level and I am sure that when people hear these words, they automatically think that to forgive means to let people off the hook including our political leaders. That is not what political forgiveness is about. On the contrary, a political forgiveness process must begin with truth telling and accountability. This is the critical first step. Without this healing is impossible.

For all of you who would like to recieve my newsletter to learn more about political forgiveness please go to my website www.drborris.com.  If you have any personal or political forgivness stories you would like to share or have thoughts or questions you may have concerning forgiveness on a personal or political level please use the contact form below. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Is the United Nations Getting Ready for the Transformational Power of Forgiveness?

During April 24-25, 2018 the United Nations convened a high-level meeting in New York on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The purpose of the meeting was to assess efforts undertaken and opportunities to strengthen the United Nations work on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The United Nations Headquarters welcomed heads of states to review the organization’s current work in conflict prevention and how to strengthen current operations and institutions related to peace. The High-Level Meeting was an occasion for participants from government, civil society, including women’s groups and representatives of the youth, the private sector, regional and sub-regional organizations and academia to discuss ways to support and promote sustaining peace. This was an historical milestone for advancing the United Nations’ work in the areas of conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding and to set the stage for a wider agenda of renewal and reform.

This meeting attracted the highest levels of attendance seen at the United Nations this year. It brought about a greater understanding of how one views peace. Perhaps Miroslav Lajc ̌a ́k President of the United Nations General Assembly said it best:

“Peace is more than a ceasefire. It is more than a peace deal. And, it is more than the absence of war. This means that once-off operations or activities are not enough to achieve it. Instead, we need to tackle conflict at its roots. We need to look to the horizon, to see the warning signs. We need to build a culture of peace; a culture of prevention.”

The meeting focused on a discussion in four areas.

Prevention

First, the UN meeting attendees looked at prevention, especially long-term prevention. This put the focus on sustainable development, economic growth, institution building and the respect for human rights.

Coherence

The second focus area was on coherence at both national and international levels. President Miroslav Lajc ̌a ́k spoke of a few examples such as in The Gambia where sustainable peace is central to the country’s national development plan. In Malawi United Nations development and political actors came together to support the national peace architecture. And in New York the Peacebuilding Commission is building bridges across the United Nations three pillars.

National Ownership

Sustaining peace does not stand a chance unless it is driven by national actors. Examples discussed included the Philippines where national cultures and policies were complemented rather than replaced.

Inclusion

The most prominent lesson was about inclusion. There are greater results with more inclusion. A shining example is how the women in Liberia have come together. They have developed a platform and a strong united voice, and because of their commitment and determination ended a civil war and now have come together to prevent the country from sliding back into war. Another example is the Balkans where young people even years after the fighting stopped continued to work for reconciliation. And in Sri Lanka civil society designed the national reconciliation process.
So how does political forgiveness fit into all of this?

Political forgiveness is a very inclusive and comprehensive approach to peacebuilding and sustaining peace. It is a process which involves the individual, the community and changing structures to support healing and reconciliation. As mentioned earlier, understanding the root causes is very important in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Underneath the root causes are painful emotions which are driving the conflict and if the emotional currents are not given voice, emotions especially of anger, fear and hate will become a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Political forgiveness on an individual and community level focuses on healing these emotions so the root causes can be addressed.

In September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide the role of public, non-profit, for-profit and voluntary sectors in global development. Goal 16 focuses on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Focusing on Goal 16 provides a wonderful opportunity for developing political forgiveness within countries. There are many facets to this and where political forgiveness can fit in. The UN can support such programs as “Schools for Forgiveness and Reconciliation” to help with the healing of political and domestic violence on an individual level. The UN can also support indigenous practices which involves community healing such as the Fambul Tok program in Sierra Leone. Lastly, to support goal 16 the UN can help governments look at structures within their countries which can support a culture of peace. This is where the transformational power of political forgiveness lies in not only healing individuals and communities but in also helping to change structures where it has the capacity to heal nations. Giving what the goals are of the United Nations and what it wants to achieve, the process of political forgiveness makes these goals achievable and is a process which fosters prevention and transforms conflict supporting peacebuilding mechanisms and sustaining peace around the world.

Please share your thoughts on : https://www.facebook.com/7-Steps-to-Forgiveness-109220899099707/, twitter @erborris or www.linkedin.com/in/dreileenborris

As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang.