The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks are the latest in a continuing pattern of violence inflicted by state agents and citizens, mostly white, against Americans of African descent. Their deaths have stoked strong denunciations and calls for justice and change, to do something, anything, to put an end to such incidents.
But to date, there has been very little interest in real change from the highest levels of political leadership. Through executive order, the president has issued modest police reforms, and congressional legislation has already stalled. To create lasting change in the United States, we must do more than reform the police. We must reconcile with our history — with race and with racism. And to do that, there is no better model to guide us than South Africa’s.
We are at a fork in the road of the kind that made South Africa, during the last days of apartheid, opt for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission model as the preferred path to a new society. South Africa chose to enter into the record the ugly history of deprivation, violence and denial of humanity of black people perpetrated by the white-dominated state and other groups within it, so that no one could reasonably disavow what happened or claim ignorance of what was done in their name and to their benefit. [Continue reading…]