Truth and Reconciliation
In October, the City Council approved a resolution establishing a truth and reconciliation process for the City of Minneapolis. The ultimate objective of this process is to begin implementing specific solutions to specific harms that created and perpetuate racial disparities with a prioritized focus on healing with historically Black American descendants of slavery and American Indian/Indigenous communities.
The resolution calls for the establishment of a working group that will explore the creation of the truth and reconciliation process and study the meaning of reconciliation, research different models of truth and reconciliation commissions, and understand the impact that such a process might have on the City of Minneapolis and its residents.
Truth and reconciliation processes have taken place all over the world, including in South Africa after the end of Apartheid and in Sierra Leone after the end of an 11-year civil war.
The City’s Division of Race & Equity will lead the enterprise-wide effort in collaboration with other City leaders to explore the formation of a truth and reconciliation process. Key work will include consulting with local and national truth and reconciliation experts, people skilled in conflict resolution and other stakeholders from the community. Additionally, the work will involve developing the organizational capacity and framework required for a City-led process and recommending an approach for establishing a truth and reconciliation commission. A report back on the proposed truth and reconciliation process and commission framework is due to the City Council’s Policy & Government Oversight Committee in January 2021.
This latest action follows another resolution passed by the City Council in July declaring racism a public health emergency in the City of Minneapolis. City leaders committed to a series of action steps to dedicate more resources to racial equity work.
“Defining a more just future requires an honest and thorough understanding of our past, and that’s the process we’re undertaking,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “By refusing to ignore an often painful history, we commit ourselves to creating that future. I commend Council Vice President Jenkins for her leadership in carrying this important work forward.”
“We are in some very difficult and challenging times in our city and our nation,” said City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins. “We must tell the truth and then begin to address that truth.”
Truth and Reconciliation Workgroup
- C Terrence Anderson, director of community based research for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban & Regional Affairs (CURA).
- Elder Atum Azzahir, CEO of the Cultural Wellness Center.
- Dr. Rose Brewer, professor of African American & African Studies at the University of Minnesota.
- Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches.
- Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, program director for racial justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches.
- LaJune Lange, Honorary Consul of South Africa in Minnesota and former Hennepin County District Court Judge.
- Robert Lilligren, president and CEO of the Native American Community Development Institute.
- Christine Diindiisi McCleave, CEO of The National Native American Boarding School Healing.
- Rev. Shawn Moore of Living Spirit UMC.
- Melissa Olson, director of partnerships and operations for MIGIZI Communications.
- Melanie Plucinski, a policy analyst for Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
- Sandra Richardson of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
- Sharon Sayles-Belton, former Minneapolis mayor.
- City of Minneapolis:
- Mayor’s Office
- City Council
- Civil Rights Department
- City Coordinator’s Office
- City Attorney’s Office
- City Clerk
To understand the impact that such a process might have on the City of Minneapolis and its residents, the resolution calls for the establishment of a working group that will explore the creation of the truth and reconciliation process. Comprised of City staff, those who have knowledge of reconciliation and healing processes, and community residents, this group will study the meaning of reconciliation and research different models of truth and reconciliation commissions. This workgroup is not a truth and reconciliation commission.
The truth and reconciliation workgroup will meet bi-weekly through the end of January and bring forth recommendations to the Policy & Government Oversight Committee in February 2021. Staff leadership for the truth and reconciliation workgroup is provided by the City’s Division of Race & Equity in collaboration with Council Vice President, Andrea Jenkins. Its confirmed members include:
Please direct questions to [email protected].
Truth and Reconciliation Toolkit
- Before a truth commission or TRC is initiated in a particular setting, it is important to establish whether such an exercise has popular support—not only among local NGOs but also among ordinary survivors.
- Truth commission reports can provide crucial frameworks for debates about violence and repression, and can foster the development of stable national institutions. Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Report offers this framework. But where there is no popular support for a truth commission, we need to find alternative ways of producing such reports.
- Where a truth commission or TRC is initiated, it will be more effective if it builds upon established practices of healing and social coexistence. If we discount or ignore such processes, we may jeopardize any form of social recovery.
- Collection of TRC’s reports
- South Africa’s Imperfect Process, 20 Years After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The following set of resources have been curated to provide further insight into theoretical frameworks around racial reconciliation as well as highlight models that have been implemented. These resources should be used to support the City of Minneapolis’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and provide helpful insights into how and if such a process should be implemented. Please note: because the idea of racial reconciliation is so heavily associated with the church, some of the resources are faith based in nature. The purpose in sharing these are to share the theories and frameworks that abound, not to promote one particular faith expression over another.
1.) The William Winters Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi contextualizes this process as: "Reconciliation involves three ideas. First, it recognizes that racism in America is both systemic and institutionalized, with far-reaching effects on both political engagement and economic opportunities for minorities. Second, reconciliation is engendered by empowering local communities through relationship- building and truth-telling. Lastly, justice is the essential component of the conciliatory process-justice that is best termed as restorative rather than retributive, while still maintaining its vital punitive character." Full article.
Frameworks on Racial Reconciliation:
2.) List of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. The following is a non-exhaustive list of truth and reconciliation commissions globally.
- Points from report:
- This lecture from Dr. Chanequa Walker Barnes talks about how common conceptions around racial reconciliation come out of the Evangelical Church, an institution that not only overwhelmingly support white supremacy but also privileges male patriarchy and hegemony. Walker Barnes discusses that main assumptions of this movement are that all racial categories are equally sinful thus Blackness is as problematic as whiteness and the solution is for all people to see themselves as Christian, which is achieved through social contact. In this analysis, Black women are largely missing and their experiences ignored, and success is seen as Black men and other men of color attaining same privileges of white men.
5.) Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – South Africa South Africa’s TRC is one of the most cited examples of a government undertaking a process for victims of violence to share their experiences and for perpetrators to confess their offenses. The TRC was a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa. The following collection of resources shares their process and how effective it has been.
- This article in Yes Magazine discusses whether or not it is time for a TRC process in the United States. Drawing on Canada’s TRC process, which addressed the suffering of First Nations children in the residential school system, the article talks about the success of grassroots approaches in pursuing reconciliation. It also states that commissions that take place in the United States are most successful when they also take the grassroots driven approach.
This article by scholar and theologian Christena Cleveland discusses why she shifted her focus from racial reconciliation to white supremacy in her efforts to address racism inside of the church and other institutions. From the article: “When I first learned the term racial reconciliation in the early nineties, I found it very helpful and exciting. I was passionate about issues of race and justice, but had never heard those things discussed in Christian circles. Suddenly there was a Biblical basis and communal energy towards this value. When I came on staff with a Christian non-profit I was taught that racial reconciliation consisted of a three strand rope- ethnic identity, inter personal relationships, and systemic injustice. Though the focus was almost always on the first two. Beginning with the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman and gaining momentum with the murder of Michael Brown Jr. in the fall of 2014, Black Lives Matter revealed the limits of the racial reconciliation model espoused by many evangelical organizations in nineties.”
Last updated Dec 14, 2020