A Searching Moral Inventory: America's Opportunity to Avoid the Haunting Self-Destruction of Racism

06/22/2015 05:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2016

In the book, Crimes against Humanity in the Land of the Free: Can a Truth and Reconciliation Process Heal Racial Conflict in America? I call on the U.S. Congress to follow up its 2008 and 2009 apologies to African Americans with the implementation of what I have termed a "Truth, Reconciliation and Peace Process" (TRPP). Given what are now near daily, deadly and exceedingly painful reminders of the consequences of our nation's addiction to racism at all levels (individual, social, and institutional), I again issue this call. Shame on all of America, if our leaders do not take the steps necessary to courageously confront and dismantle deeply misguided legacies associated with racism, legalized oppression and the falsehood of white supremacy.

In 2008 and 2009, the U.S. Congress issued House Resolution 194 and Senate Resolution 26 wherein Congressional leaders acknowledged (through detailed apologies) the racist-saturated wrongs that informed this nation's history and that continue to haunt present-day America. Undoubtedly, the most treacherous consequence of those haunting wrongs is the ongoing, widespread moral damage inherent in the American psyche -- a damage which played itself out recently in the race-based hatred and violence we witnessed in Charleston, SC.

Clearly, a vast number of the citizens of this nation are impacted by the long-term exposure to ill-formed racist beliefs and systems that have fueled deadly hostilities for centuries. Like an addiction, racial bigotry in America is a sick, self-destructive tradition in desperate need of resolution. Ultimately, the achievement of a healthier nation will only manifest through a nation-wide commitment to heal the addiction that has for too long plagued all Americans. Indeed, the Charleston tragedy does not rest solely at the feet of a lone madman or a rogue gunman. Instead, it rests at the feet of all Americans who choose to deny the evil hold that race-based hatred and intolerance have on this nation.

As I see it, a Truth, Reconciliation and Peace Process (TRPP) would be the American government's active intervention to address our nation's revolting "race problem" by authorizing and supporting truth-telling and reconciliation measures at all levels (individual, social and institutional). To begin, such measures could include:
 The authorization of the United States Institute of Peace to investigate, recommend and implement domestic truth and reconciliation initiatives;
 The facilitation of community-based public education and awareness programs to promote a racism-free nation and challenge corrupt notions associated with white supremacy, and
 The encouragement of private and media-centered projects to engage individuals, communities and institutions in open and honest dialogues about America's racial history and ways to resolve existent tensions, inequities, bigotries and injustices.

Healing the long-term, collective race-based wounds to the psyches and emotions of Americans will not be an easy or expeditious task. But it MUST be done if we are to have the type of healthy, strong and united nation needed to survive an otherwise volatile and unpredictable world. As a nation, we cannot continue to sustain the psycho-social injuries associated with racial intolerance and violence.

The web of transgenerational hatreds and bigotries are damaging our necessary unity at a time when we are most vulnerable. No longer can we accept denials of our societal addiction to racism. No longer can we allow our deeply entrenched racial illiteracy to go unchallenged. And no longer can we permit racial violence to characterize, distinguish, and summarily humiliate the American persona.

Collectively, we have an urgent responsibility to end our nation's obsession with race; a government-authorized, nationwide Truth, Reconciliation and Peace Process (TRPP) is the place to begin. And for any who might presume my call for a TRPP to be overly ambitious, magnanimous or idealistic, I yield to the words of the late Nelson Mandela: "It always seems impossible, until it's done". Please America, wake up!