In tackling racial injustice, US should look to South Africa

As protests continue across the United States and around the world in response to systemic racism in policing, activists and political leaders seek out ways to affect permanent change.

Olúfémi Táíwò, professor of Africana studies at Cornell University, studies law, judiciaries and constitutionalism in Africa and is authoring a forthcoming book entitled “Does the United States Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?” He says that in addressing racial injustice, the U.S. could learn a lot from South Africa and its use of a TRC:

“When, in the last century, many countries realized that, as a society, they had wronged segments of their society through racial discrimination, genocide, or military misrule, they decided that they fell short of what kind of society they thought they were or desired to be. To reconcile with undeserving victims requires that the society acknowledge what it had done, atone for it and ask for the forgiveness of those who had been wronged. This necessitates also that the society (1) resolve never again to allow similar injuries and (2) do all they can to restore their victims to their full humanity as fellow citizens in their shared geopolity.

“Such countries empaneled Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. Given the striking similarities between the United States and South Africa when it comes to their shared history of denying the humanity of black people, there is a lot the United States can learn from the prosecution of the TRC in South Africa.

“It might help us chart a new path to eliminating the mindset that makes future deaths like George Floyd’s inevitable.”

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