U.S. needs a Truth Commission on race

After winning his decades-long battle to end apartheid in his homeland, and becoming South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela did a remarkable thing.

Opening session of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Instead of seeking vengeance against the white minority that had suffocated the black majority for so long, he established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. to create an accurate record of what happened, and why. The goal of the court-like commission was not to prosecute the perpetrators, but to create a history that was laser straight and true. The adage says winners get to write history and that’s what Mandela did, cementing his own place in history. 

The United States needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on race to present a history of our country, and its leaders, that is laser straight and true. Bring in historians, academics, social scientists, ethicists, people with facts in their hands.

As Mandela echoed Abraham Lincoln, who did not prosecute leaders of the Confederacy for treason, we should emulate Mandela and face our history. We need the whole truth, presented in the legal and social context of the times, to decide how to treat our national symbols.

This is about statues and more. 

It started with Confederate statues, which should be removed, legally, not by mobs.

After the Confederacy, attention switched locally to Frank Rizzo and nationally to Christopher Columbus, and not for the first time. Columbus’ legend had been under attack for well over a decade.

In school, I learned that Columbus sailed the ocean blue. I doubt that is being taught today. I knew the original narrative — he was a brave explorer. Then I read the counter-narrative — he was a slaver, rapist, and murderer. Some roots of that are in Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States,” a deeply warped version of history from a dedicated Marxist.

Is that my jaundiced opinion? No. On page 631, he admits his book is “biased.”

Christopher Columbus toppled in St. Paul (Photo: CGTN-TV)

Then I read the counter-counter narrative that says Columbus was framed. The upshot: I no longer know what the hell is the truth about Columbus and I suggested he be put on trial — in a real courtroom today.  

I suggested the same for others under attack, to uncover the truth, but I now feel a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the way to go.

The city of Columbus is thinking about changing its name. How about Washington — the city and the state? Do they need to be sanitized? 

What is the whole truth about George Washington — cherry tree chopper, boy who could not tell a lie, slaver, father of his country?

George Washington off his pedestal in Portland, (Photo: KTVZ-TV)

History and mythology can exist side by side. 

Will the Jefferson Memorial be dynamited? Will Pennsylvania be renamed because William Penn owned slaves?

Left-wing activist Shaun King says images of Jesus represent “white supremacy,” and should be torn down.  There is nothing new about the thought that Jesus was dark-skinned, but the call for destruction of art — that’s new.

If you think people got upset over a statue of Columbus being pulled down, watch what happens when the mob starts throwing bricks through stained glass windows.

We can’t have moral vigilantes roaming the countryside with buckets of red paint, bricks, chains and an ignorance of history.

There are three reasons statues, however despicable to you, should not be destroyed.

First, they are Art. They should be preserved and kept for historical records. Tyrants destroy Art, democracies should not.

Second, statues are property, owned by people, institutions or governments. Property should not be confiscated or destroyed without legal proceedings.

That brings us to the third reason: Mob rule can’t be tolerated, not because of some high-falutin notion of justice, but because of another adage — what goes around, comes around. As writer Frank Sonnenberg put it, “Karma is like a boomerang.”

The mob that you love today will be replaced by the mob that hates you tomorrow. Law is the door between civilization and chaos.

The attacks we are experiencing now are not just against American culture — they are against European culture, seeking to implant guilt feelings among those with a lighter skin hue. 

That wasn’t Mandela’s goal, and it shouldn’t be ours.

This is a time for racial reckoning. 

Let’s do it openly, fairly, and completely. 

31 thoughts on “U.S. needs a Truth Commission on race”

  1. As with many ideas presented in current day society – Good Message, Wrong Messenger. And I say that with all due respect and love.

  2. Stu, you wrote an excellent essay/article/op-ed. It is based in real, understandable, and mostly practical terms. The unpractical part is getting past the current madness – one has to wonder how, why, and when it will stop. But your idea of an open and real dialog – now that’s a great start, if it can ever get started.

  3. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    I’m doubtful on an official “truth commission.” Part of the problem is simply the radicalized condition of the universities. The left cozied up to the managerial types more effectively than the conservatives or anyone who cares about a positive narrative in American history. What we hear from mobs on the streets has often long ago been taught as gospel. Apparently, its often “good for business” –of the managers. In tendency the universities have been “de-nationalized” or rendered “multicultural” and “nationality neutral.”

    The rule of law is the first priority. It is the basic precondition of civilized debate. In the end and the longer run, the story of American and Western history will only come down to us from the academy.

    Notice the more immediate problem of digitalized mass media conducted by “nationality neutral” big IT firms, often operated by computer engineers and foreign-born computer engineers at that. We may doubt of their subtle understanding of American history. Apparently this is good for business, though damaging to America’s self-understanding and self-concept. Pure worship of the golden calf.

    H.G. Callaway

      1. Why the term “Truth Commission” sound like something out of George Orwell’s “1984”?

    I was just reading this month’s American Legion magazine. We also receive NRA material, plus a few other periodicals. The general consensus out there, is we have a problem. Really, (sic) did this just happen overnight ?!?
    Stu wrote another very factual blog. My question is: Are we ready to be completely honest with ourselves ? If you can’t admit that there has been problems, you can’t correct them.

  5. I like the idea. If I recall,didn’t LBJ do something similar in the 60’s? And the recommendations went unheeded!

  6. LBJ

    You mean the capo of the Texas Mafia family who sent over 500,000 troops to Vietnam.

    What a great man !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I’m sure he did other things that would make people cringe. I was just stating a fact!

  7. How is it possible to view the past objectively, through the eyes of the present? We cannot NOW conceive of slavery being anything but what it was THEN: trafficking in human lives. But THEN it was conceived as ‘business as usual’ to virtually the southern half of the United States — enough so that a civil war erupted that took 600,000 American lives. There is no way we can get into the hearts and minds of people a mere 60 years ago (remember Bull Conner and his infamous German shepherd dogs?), much less 160 years ago using today’s reasoning. Even if we put Columbus (or George Washington or Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee) on trial NOW as you suggested, Stu, we would be judging them about THEN using NOW standards. Columbus lived in a time when the Catholic Church was more powerful than most governments, and the Pope was more autocratic than any king. Can I, a Catholic, comprehend what the Church was like or did then — or judge it NOW for what it was like THEN? Statues of people from the past? Put them in museums for us to contemplate what the time in which they lived was like. Surely we can find nicer art work to put on display that some general on a horse. And please– no more clothespins or LOVE sculptures.

    1. Vincent

      What % of the Southern population owned slaves? You make it sound like every Southerner owned slaves.

      1. Miss: 49%; SC 46%; GA 37%; AL 35%; FL 34%; LA 29%; TX 28%; NC 28%; VA 26%; TN 25%; KY 23%; AR 20%; MO 13%; MD 12%; DE 3%. Approximately one-third of all southern families owned slaves. Suffice it to say there were enough slave owning families to bring about secession and a civil war.

          1. Good get,I will look at it.Sounds intersting.

            Being a statistician I enjoy viewing data bases.

  8. Stu, you speak the voice of reason. Does our mayor, our governor or any of our elected officials subscribe to your blog? If so, do they comment?

    I am just always wondering if having any of us really have a voice or is it just cathartic to express our opinions to each other?

    1. I am sure the mayor does not. I think 2 Council people do. To make this voice heard, peoples who are here and agree need to spread the posts.

  9. In a previous column by Stu I posted a quote from Winston Churchill (“The best argument against Democracy is to spend 10 minutes with the average voter”). Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps the dumbest person in Congress since Senator Scott of Virginia, just won the Democrat primary in her NY district with 73% of the vote. Res ipsa loquitur.

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