“The pain our country feels is rooted in generations of institutional racism. People of color are dying unjust deaths at the hands of power abusers. Whether it be the abuse of power that poisons the air and water surrounding communities of color, taking away protections for undocumented young people, underfunding Tribes putting them at disproportionate risk during a pandemic, or police brutality that kills unarmed black people, we must untangle the racist webs that are woven into our laws and policies. The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Resolution takes a step to fully examine how slavery and racism have impacted laws and policies on the books, so that we can take action.”Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01), Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
If you want to change a system, you change the people in the system. The system is made up of, created, designed, enforced, and reimagined by people. People with hearts. People with hurts. Too often we have looked to legislation to change a system without an understanding that hearts need to be touched, revealed, and transformed by the experience of the legislation. And while no piece of legislation will do the necessary work of healing from the racial injustices of slavery, colonization, genocide, exclusion, white supremacy, and xenophobia that we, as a nation, are crying out to do, a new piece of legislation offers one pathway to do so.
Back in 2005, I was hired to facilitate a retreat for the members of the three United States Congressional Caucuses who represent people of color: the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (co-founded by my mentor, Lillian Roybal Rose’s father, the Honorable Edward R. Roybal), the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)—known as the Tri-Caucus.* The goal for the retreat was to bring these caucuses together for the first time to acknowledge the impacts of racism and effects of internalized racism within and between the caucuses as well as support them to do racial healing and transformational work together. After months of preparation, interviews, meetings and planning for the event, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the retreat was cancelled.
Fast forward: Through the work we did with two National Laboratories in California from 2008 through 2018, Representative Barbara Lee met with constituents who also happened to have participated in and championed our transformational healing approach to racial justice and equity work. I would like to think that the preparation for the retreat-that-didn’t-happen and these conversations helped plant some of the seeds that led to the proposed formation of the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission (TRHT) which will be officially announced today, Thursday June 4.
Congratulations to Representative Barbara Lee for her bold and visionary leadership! We couldn’t agree with her more: “Only by understanding our past, and confronting the errors that still haunt us today, can we truly move forward as a people and a country.”
*The Congressional Native American Caucus was not involved in the Tri-Caucus during this period.