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Truth and Reconciliation in the USA

Don Rose 31 December 2013 3 Comments

Last week I recommended the film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” which touched briefly on the “Truth and Reconciliation” commission established by Nelson Mandela and chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu. Whites who had committed atrocities against the black majority during apartheid would be forgiven if they came forward and took responsibility by detailing their crimes—confessing fully to shed light on what had happened in order to move forward without revenge in the new society Mandela was shaping.




Now comes Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, former education columnist for the New York Times, who writes it’s high time for a similar commission to bring out the full truth and set right many of the historic lies and distortions still being promulgated about our own past.


Summarizing in his blog (Truth As Well As Reconciliation | Economic Policy Institute), Rothstein observes we do a worse job than the South Africans in  “facing up to our racial history…leading us to make less progress than necessary in remedying racial inequality.”


For example he notes that the Alabama Historical Association recently placed historic markers around Montgomery to commemorate civil rights heroes such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but declined to mark the sites of the city’s once thriving slave markets for fear of creating “controversy.”  How’s that for truth and reconciliation?


“Throughout our nation, this fear of confronting the past makes it more difficult to address and remedy the ongoing existence of urban ghettos, the persistence of the black-white achievement gap, and the continued under-representation of African Americans in higher education and better-paying jobs,” Rothstein writes.

A major lie that needs cleansing is the myth of so-called “de facto” or happenstance self-segregation contrasted with the “de jure” segregation created by law in the south. As many Chicagoans—but not enough—know by now, we became the world’s most segregated city through conscious and well planned governmental action.  Nothing accidental or “de facto” about it. And though it was perfected in its own way during the era of Richard J. Daley, Chicago was far from the only northern city to use the law to keep the races separated.


Once there were “restrictive covenants,” which legally prevented the sale of homes to undesirables such as “Negroes” and Jews.  Before Daley, Chicago passed a law giving each alderman the right to reject construction of new public housing in his ward. Whites rejected while blacks accepted, thereby setting our pattern of residential segregation in concrete through government action.


Well beyond Chicago, the federal government’s policies of placing subsidized housing in impacted areas, plus its lending programs up to the ‘60s, created white suburbs and sustained the formation of black ghettoes throughout the nation.


Do we teach this in school?  Rothstein finds most major textbooks barely touch segregation in the North—and when they do it’s either a quick reference or reiteration of the “de facto” myth. “Nelson Mandela understood that glossing over the past undermined the possibility of reconciliation,” he says.


Barack Obama once promised a real conversation about race.  A “truth and reconciliation” program could be his greatest legacy.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

image former USBA United States Heavyweight Boxing champion Carl “The Truth” Williams


  • George Kocan said:

    Truth and reconciliation? Hah! what a joke! I find it funny that Mandela did not ask for forgiveness for his terrorism and “necklacing.” I do not expect any prominent leader in the “civil right” racket to come clean and admit the whole thing was a fraud to destroy our constitutional system of ‘the rule of law and not of men’ and to dispossess Catholics in the big cities, like Chicago.

  • JMK said:

    More than 40 years after the Fair Housing Laws were enacted, and society is still very segregated by race. Perhaps Government meddling in the housing industry is the cause of segregation, rather than the cure…or perhaps it is not a problem at all.

  • George Kocan said:

    The purpose of the fair housing laws was to dispossess Catholics in Chicago and other big cities. Martin Luther King came to Chicago at the behest of the Quakers. Note, that the Quakers are a Protestant, anti-Catholic group, as well as the Southern Baptists, King’s denomination. King came to Chicago and affixed a copy of his own “90 theses” (just as the real Martin Luther did.) to the door of city hall, where the Catholic mayor, Richard Daley presided. King presented himself as a black Moses leading his people into the Promised Land. When the real Moses came to the Promised Land, he killed off the inhabitants, the Canaanites, for their ideolatry. The Black Moses came to Chicago to ethnically cleanse the Catholics from the city. The Southern Baptists flooded into Chicago and destroyed the housing market. They destroyed the value of homes in ethnic communities of Poles, Italians, Irish, Germans, etc. Then, they took them over and forced the inhabitants into the suburbs. The Southern Baptists and their Democrat enablers owe them restitution.

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