To this day there are many Americans who do not comprehend the true horror of slavery. There are many who do not even acknowledge that slavery is part of America’s history. There are also Americans who don’t understand slavery as evidenced by the numerous exhibitions of the Confederate flag in America. There is also the ongoing debate about “America’s original sin” equating racism with slavery. The two are connected but racism is part of the debate about slavery, but it is not the only part of slavery in America. There is the debate about authorizing reparations to make up for the slavery sin, but it ignores an inconvenient truth – slavery is part of America’s history.
The argument against reparations is that there is no one alive today that caused slavery or owned slaves, nor are there former slaves alive today. As such, how will reparations be paid and to who? However, reparations can be debated but only after slavery is fully understood by the American voters.
What America needs is a Truth Commission to explore the issue of slavery in America. A truth commission is a truth-seeker. It focuses on the past and documents the events leading to and the suffering that slavery caused in America.
A truth commission would be very uncomfortable for many Americans.
But until Americans fully understand slavery the talk about reparations is a solution that would never resolve the pain suffered because of slavery. For reconciliation to work, Americans need to understand the full implications of slavery. Only then, can slavery be viewed in the context of how it has woven itself into the fabric of today’s American culture.
A truth commission would not be new for America.
America has already had two truth commission looking into the past.
In 2004, the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission studied and delivered a report about the events of the Greensboro massacre in 1979. Poignantly, the Greensboro Commission studied the events that were tied to slavery because of the involvement of the Ku Klux Klan in the massacre.
In 2012, another truth commission was established. The Maine-Wabanaski State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to study and identify what happened to the Wabanaski families in 1978.
There exists much historical documentation about slavery in America. What is missing is an acknowledgement that slavery in America was wrong. That it hurt many people. The slavery history continues to affect many people through racism, historical ignorance and outright denial of its existence. Many schools gloss over slavery in history class while others offer excuses for the need for slavery.
A truth commission on slavery would force Americans to look deep into themselves and acknowledge the truth about slavery in America’s past. Only then, can the debate on reparations be had.