Reimagining America Project:
The Truth, Reconciliation, and Atonement Commission of Charlotte, NC (RAP/TRAC)
To call to account the history of racialized oppression in Charlotte, and then to foster — through testimony, witnessing, and atonement — measurable systemic changes to end systemic racism permanently.
The commission is a collection of local and national leaders who are citizen activists functioning with democratic authority to call the Charlotte community and then the country to account for their history of racialized oppression. It is a people’s movement of leaders convinced that the time has come to foster systemic change and that there is no longer time to wait for others to do the work that needs to be done to end white supremacy and systemic racism.
The commission is an ethical practice meant to heal our society. Truth, reconciliation, and atonement are ethical practices with a long spiritual history in the great wisdom traditions and religious traditions that inform the ideals upon which this country needs to stand. Here is how these practices will be distinctive in their execution:
- The whole truth of the past, the present, and a realistic ethical transformations of the future of this society, will be fully explored by the witnesses in conjunction with the commissioners. Truth is a moral and spiritual achievement of the highest order that will give us a more noble character as a nation, and indeed will set us free from falsehoods and sins of the past.
- The practice of confession and witnessing is both painful and liberating as a means of establishing the deep truths of everyone’s story. Confession liberates victims but it also liberates perpetrators and those who failed to act as bystanders. Confession firmly establishes truth, but it also opens the door to relationship and reconciliation.
- The practice of this commission will be focused ultimately on building a beloved community of citizens who can both embrace painful truths of the past while simultaneously seeking love and reconciliation in the present through the best practices of justice.
- The facilitation of acts of Atonement is the ultimate practice of the Commission, for it is through concrete forms of making right what was wrong that perpetrators and bystanders can be set free from the terrible mistakes of the past, while victims and their descendants can start to see actual, measurable evidence of contrition, and proof of justice slowly emerging into the light that builds an utterly new relationship among equals.
- The commission will seek measurable commitment to a new Charlotte. The vision of the future change may not be achievable for ten years, but each year, there will be measurable steps along the road to atonement that can be attested to by every member of the community. People will be able to see evidence of change from the inception of the work of the commission, and it is that evidence that will make the commission worthy of its noble name.
The commission will comprise roughly 30 persons chosen from the Charlotte community initially, from different loci of power who are active civic, political, business, and religious leaders in our community. They will be charged to chart the direction of the commission, to serve on commission committees, and to be impaneled on the hearing panel as called on by the commission.
Commissioners must meet the following requirements:
- Believe in the mission and goals of the commission;
- Be committed to the vision of fostering a community devoid of the vestiges of racialized thinking and identity-based injustice;
- Serve on at least one committee for the commission;
- Be ambassadors of our vision in the larger community.
Witnesses will offer testimony about the history of racism in our community and the continued impact of race on our citizens. They will present during hearings of the commission so that we can document the manifestations of racialist thought on the community as a whole and on individual members of this community. Witnesses will consist of at least three varieties: historical witnesses; impacted witnesses; and confessing witnesses.
Historical witnesses must:
Present a presentation of predetermined length that will establish the racial history surrounding the issue under discussion for the evening. For example, such witnesses might provide a history of housing patterns, school performance, access to healthcare resources, discriminatory policing, etc. in the Charlotte community. They will be subject to questioning by the panel in regards to their presentations.
Impacted witnesses must:
- Prepare a 3-5 minute opening statement that succinctly states the impact of race, racism, or an instance of racial disparity on their lives or on the larger community;
- Present the prepared statement before thee hearing panel;
- Answer questions from the hearing panel that might ensure that their stories are fully told;
- Be willing to work within the guidelines of the Commission to further efforts toward systemic change.
Confessing witnesses must:
- Be from a community system that has participated in fostering racial disparity;
- Be willing to confess that history/ pattern of race based oppression or fostered disparity;
- Offer a plan, policy, program, or resources that would help to foster systemic change.
The Myth of Racism and the Foundation of RAP/TRAC
Over the years of our colonial history and our federation as a democracy, America has lived with two competing visions. On the one hand, we deem ourselves exceptional because we are emboldened by the premise that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal.” On the other hand, we are beholden to a legitimating ideology called race that has intentionally and systemically fostered a hierarchy of humanity with attendant disparity based upon phenotypical presentation of skin color.
These two ideologies are not just incompatible, they are fundamentally irreconcilable. They have fostered a schism in the American psyche that has prevented us from living up to our exceptional ideals. If we are to be the nation of our greatest aspirations, we cannot do so until once and for all we have addressed the notion of race.
As anthropologists, biologists, and geneticists have attested, there is no such thing as “race” as an objective reality. The concept only exists as a “social construct” that is only possible due to the consent that we give to that notion. In essence, “race” is not real. It is an idea that has been ingrained in the American mind to legitimate the taking of people from land, and the taking of land from people; to selectively apportion wealth, power, and privilege along predetermined lines; and to legitimate the imbalances that these ideas have created by serving as a justification for systemic inequality.
Thus, we have created the Reimagining America Project, acknowledging the false nature of the concept of race and determining that this idea should no longer have the power to shape the lives of people in this world. “Race” should no longer be allowed to foster disparate outcomes for different people based on the color of skin. The false idea of race should not impact every aspect of our lives, should no longer be allowed to delimit opportunities based upon the color of one’s skin, should no longer be allowed to divide us as human beings into allegedly better and worse types entitled to different benefits and suffering differing liabilities. “Race” is something that we as human beings made, and it is long since time that we realize our collective power to eliminate this ideology and root out its manifestations in our society. We have the power to foster the change that we would like to see, and it is now time that we begin to work towards that end.
On August 10, 2020, the Charlotte Black Upward Mobility & Restorative Justice Resolution will be on the City Council meeting agenda. The community is invited to join a Facebook watch party at 5:00 p.m. to show support for the resolution.
RAP-TRAC is a project of CRDC’s American Reconciliation program.