Racial Justice Demands Truth & Reconciliation

56 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2018

Date Written: March 22, 2018


Ever since Europeans first settled the continent over four hundred years ago, racial injustice has existed in North America. The attempted destruction of Indigenous Nations and families in the pursuit of land and resources, along with the formal legal recognition of human bondage in the United States for nearly a century following the nation's birth in 1776, created fundamental cracks that have never been addressed. While the Thirteenth Amendment officially abolished slavery in 1865 and the Fourteenth Amendment mandated equal protection in 1868, nearly another century passed before “separate but equal” was repudiated and some progress was made.

Today we still see persistent racial inequities throughout American society. The criminal justice/prison complex disproportionately targets, captures and incarcerates persons of color; and police shootings of unarmed black victims – such as of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 – are grimly commonplace. It is difficult to deny, in light of this history, that America has a major problem of race.

What can be done? Truth and Reconciliation is a process that has been used effectively in other nations and cultures (e.g., South Africa; Rwanda; Germany; Indigenous Nations) following times of deep racial discord/violence. The idea is that true healing can begin only when past atrocities and injustices are first acknowledged and addressed.

It is time for Americans to engage, finally, in processes of Truth and Reconciliation; first to acknowledge the atrocities of slavery and the sobering realities of its aftermath, then to attempt, through conscious acts of reconciliation and healing, to account for the massive harms done.

Suggested Citation

Lawrence, Michael Anthony, Racial Justice Demands Truth & Reconciliation (March 22, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3147063 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3147063

Michael Anthony Lawrence (Contact Author)

Michigan State University College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States
517-432-6905 (Phone)
517-432-6801 (Fax)

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