NEW from US academe comes a call for President Biden to set up a ‘Truth Commission’ to ‘implement a formal plan to reckon with its deeply harmful legacies of racism and European colonialism’.
The proposal comes from Alexander Laban Hinton, Director of the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights, and a highly esteemed Professor in the Anthropology and Global Affairs Departments at Rutgers University, Newark.
A prolific writer, Hinton is promoting his book It Can Happen Here: White Power and the Rising Threat of Genocide in the US, to be published next month. The flyer describes it as a ‘new assessment of the dangers of contemporary white power extremism in the United States’.
The catalyst for the book and for the professor’s lobbying for a Truth Commission was apparently the election of Donald Trump in 2016, which he describes as ‘a shocking event’. Worse still was the sight of ‘white supremacists’ marching through Charlottesville, Virginia. This convinced him that ‘white power extremism and the violent atrocities linked to it’ are the biggest threat to the US today.
Hinton reminds us that Joe Biden started his presidential campaign on a promise to ‘restore the soul of the United States’ and assures us that ‘transitional justice’ is the way to achieve this lofty aim.
Transitional justice is a quasi-judicial approach to conflict resolution which has been used by other countries to address large-scale or systematic human rights violations, usually including genocide, where normal justice systems were considered inadequate.
It was used in Libya, Rwanda and the Balkans to try to establish the ‘truth’ of oppression and mass killing. ‘Truth seeking’ is a key activity for such commissions as they attempt to agree a historical record. The investigations often uncover still-sensitive events: they allow ‘victims’ to articulate their sufferings and identify perpetrators. They may lead to strategies for co-existence – or not.
As an academic, the professor has assessed the efficacy of international precedents and advocates a framework for the US which would include ‘mechanisms such as trials, truth commissions, memorialisation, and educational initiatives aimed at redressing injustices, holding those responsible accountable, and creating a society where such wrongs will not be repeated’.
The Truth Commission he seeks would be led by ‘senior, retired Democrats and Republicans . . . respected across the aisle’, much like President Biden’s commission currently reviewing the Supreme Court. This commission’s purview would be ‘expansive’, beginning with the history of the ‘displacement and mass death of Indigenous peoples’ and moving to present-day structural racism which he warrants is ‘crippling the country’.
Professor Hinton identifies the Republic of South Africa as a good model. For many years South Africa held a ‘ground-breaking truth commission’ which investigated human rights violations under the apartheid regime between 1960 and 1994. Many of its determinations formed the basis of current government and social policy.
South Africa is effectively a one-party state, with the African National Congress winning every election since 1994. Land farmed for generations by white Africans (7.9 per cent of the population) has been seized, sometimes without compensation and often with violence, to be ‘returned’ to black Africans, mostly with little farming experience but sound party connections. Results are not always positive.
The ANC passed numerous laws to ‘rebalance opportunities’ for blacks. The most influential is the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (BBBEE) which mandates that all companies should be majority black-owned, with executive and managerial posts reserved only for blacks. All government contracts require ‘approved affirmative corporate behaviour’; companies which do not comply are not permitted to operate. There is no such thing as ‘colour blindness’ – this is critical race theory in practice.
Racial tensions and economic inequalities continue. Inter-racial and intra-racial violence is common, and Reuters reports that South Africa has the world’s fifth-highest murder rate. In October last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed to all South Africans to ‘resist attempts to mobilise communities along racial lines’.
The professor’s earnest proposals mention none of this bloody reality, and he also cites Cambodia, where he testified at the UN-backed tribunal which considered Khmer Rouge atrocities during the civil war (1975-1979).
Despite this expensive, internationally high-profile and long-running commission, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 25 per cent of households in the capital Phnom Penh are headed by a single mother, with one in eight children dying before their fifth birthday. Few opportunities exist for much of the population and poverty, poor education, and unemployment have led to a thriving sex trade. Political strife continues.
Hinton is silent on these outcomes and praises other commissions, including the recent Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which focused on sexual and physical cruelties and violence in Indigenous residential schools. Financial reparations were made to the victims but social, health, and economic disparities between indigenous Canadians and more recent white immigrants remain.
Eventually, Professor Hinton reveals his true purpose; the creation of a statutory forum to allow Black Lives Matter and Critical Race protesters to show us their stigmata, and promote their despairing message that the USA was birthed from the unholy coupling of slavery and racism.
He tells us that, like many right-thinking Democrats, he is a keen advocate of reparations for black Americans, including supporting the Bill currently going through Congress. But he is more ambitious than that – he wants a national fund established from general taxation to finance such schemes.
The professor doesn’t just want one commission, either: he supports the Capitol Insurrection Commission, just this month approved by the Senate, similar to that set up after the 9/11 tragedy. One can only assume that he, and his Democrat peers, have no sense of propriety, proportion or even irony.
The professor comes cloaked in the raiment of the extreme cultural Left. He cannot help but virtue-signal. He claims that most of US history is rotten, built on blood and greed, ‘human rights violations’ and ‘white nationalist violence’. He sees nothing in his great nation to be proud of.
That Professor Hinton perceives ‘white power’ to be the dominant threat to the US is bizarre. His predictable dismissal of his country’s extraordinary cultural, social and economic successes, and its efforts to promote fairness and equality, is sad. That he equates the US with failed states sullies most of his decent fellow citizens, disrespects their ancestors and emboldens their enemies. He may ‘sow the wind and reap the whirlwind’. (Hosea 8:7).