Truth and Racial Healing

League of Women Voters CEO Virginia Kase has voiced her support for the creation of a United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT). The League’s endorsement came in the form of a letter to Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13), who introduced a resolution to the House in June 2020 and again in February 2021 that would form a national commission. Representative Lee’s congressional district includes the cities of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville. 

The proposed commission aims to resolve racial inequities while acknowledging systems of oppression that have limited opportunities for people of color. The House resolution points to specific areas, such as housing, lending, education, and voting rights, as instances where opportunities have been historically denied to people of color. The resolution also explains that these forms of inequality are ongoing, but can be addressed through policy. 

Donna J. Prescott, a member of the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson, helped garner support for Representative Lee’s resolution by reaching out to fellow League members at home and around the country. 

According to Prescott, Representative Lee’s resolution is based on the work and recommendations of Dr. Gail Christopher, formerly with the W.K.Kellogg Foundation who is the TRHT architect. Whereas Dr. Christopher proposed a community-based model of racial healing, Representative Lee expanded this idea to the federal level and is working with Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J. Prescott also stressed the importance of structural change, and explained that the national commission could study policy solutions to the inequities it found. 

“The commission would allow people to begin to heal, but as we begin to heal we need to put supportive structures in place,” Prescott said. “That means better schools, better health care, and better lending to African Americans or Latinos who have been deprived of loans.” 

Prescott pointed to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre as an example of how racial prejudice has destroyed communities of color in a lasting manner. Just like Tulsa’s Black community, other communities across the country have been unable to fully recover from past harms. 

“Tulsa needs major healing to get beyond what happened there one hundred years ago,” Prescott said. “They were a thriving African-American community, with banks, shops, health and legal services, movie theaters, grocery stores, etc. This white group of people burns the community down, and suddenly there’s no financial assets for them to pass down through generations – it’s all ripped away from them.” 

Prescott added that, in what became a common occurrence across the country, the damage to Tulsa’s Black community was left out of educational curricula and went largely undiscussed until recently. 

According to Prescott, the Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation would allow communities of color – like Tulsa’s – to begin to recover from past harms by “telling the truth.” 

LWVBAE President Ruby MacDonald, and member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Team, emphasized the importance of this movement, “It’s important, given the horrific events that have been endured, that the subject is given the necessary seriousness.” She said this is an avenue for progress through learning. There are events or periods of terrible trauma that have been largely left out of the conversation for many years.

“Learning everything about these things is a way to help our country live up to the ideals we’ve held, and this commission is a step on that path,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald also added that these conversations should be had on the local level. She said that this type of dialogue is important to “repair relations between racial groups for the future.” 

–Mattias Hoz w/ contributor Isla Cope

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