Congresswomen Are Banding Together Seeking Racial Healing

This new legislation would examine slavery and institutional racism

Donna M. Owens
ZORA
Published in
5 min readJun 9, 2020

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) speaks during a news conference with members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus prior to State of the Union at the U.S. Capitol on February 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

As protesters across America march, shout, and kneel to demand an end to police brutality, and as the land of the free and the home of the brave grapples with racism, some believe the truth could set this nation free.

That’s the spirit behind new legislation that Rep. Barbara Lee of California has unveiled, calling for the establishment of the first United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation. Back in 1996, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established post-apartheid. The American iteration would examine slavery, institutional racism, and discrimination against people of color and how this complex history affects contemporary laws and policies.

“The murder of George Floyd and the current Covid-19 crisis illustrate once again the painful and dangerous legacy that White supremacy has had in our country and the desperate need to fully acknowledge and understand how our history of inequality continues today,” said Lee.

This inequality, she believes, strikes at the heart of critical national issues — from the coronavirus health pandemic and police violence to mass incarceration and poverty — all of which disproportionately affect communities of color.

“This is a matter of survival for countless Americans. Only by understanding our past and confronting the errors that still haunt us today can we truly move forward as a people and a country.”

The resolution, officially introduced on June 4, would establish a body to “properly acknowledge, memorialize, and be a catalyst for progress toward jettisoning the belief in a hierarchy of human value based on race, embracing our common humanity, and permanently eliminating persistent racial inequities.”

To date, more than 100 members of Congress are co-sponsors of the measure. Backers include Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. Community partners such as the Open Society Foundations help comprise the diverse coalition of supporters.

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