More on the racist roots of our founding

When the Revolutionary War began, the odds of a united, continental effort to resist the British seemed nearly impossible. Few on either side of the Atlantic expected thirteen colonies to stick together in a war against their cultural cousins. In this pathbreaking book, Robert Parkinson argues that to unify the patriot side, political and communications leaders linked British tyranny to colonial prejudices, stereotypes, and fears about insurrectionary slaves and violent Indians. Manipulating newspaper networks, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and their fellow agitators broadcast stories of British agents inciting African Americans and Indians to take up arms against the American rebellion. Using rhetoric like “domestic insurrectionists” and “merciless savages,” the founding fathers rallied the people around a common enemy and made racial prejudice a cornerstone of the new Republic.

. . . Patriots through both an ideological appeal to popular rights and a wartime movement against a host of British-recruited slaves and Indians forged a racialized, exclusionary model of American citizenship. (Robert G. Parkinson’s new book, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution, and New York Times, 7/6/16)

Photo by Nick Pezzillo Flickr/creativecommons

Photo by Nick Pezzillo

For the past few days, and long before, we’ve been talking about reconciliation. Specifically, if we are ever to solve the nightmare of racial strife, a US Truth and Reconciliation Commission comprises the inevitable centerpiece to that national conversation.

Reconciliation commissions are forums that “allow diverse constituencies to tell their sides of the story and examine the history and results of gross violations of human rights.” (Ronald C. Slye). Only in a safe place, immune to legal prosecution or punishment, can the offending and offended parties come together to analyze historical injustices and their impact today, and find sustainable remedies. Similar commissions succeeded in South Africa, even in Germany following that holocaust. When is it our turn?

A Commission is necessary to solve racial problems, yes, but it is much more than that: Living through that mutual conversation, the experience itself, is the tonic for the cure. Reconciliation brings mutual understanding, forgiveness, respect, and, ultimately, a love shared. It is possible to love this country. It is agreeably humankind’s greatest and most hopeful experiment in modern democracy; however it was founded as the world’s first constitutional apartheid state. Only a US Truth and Reconciliation Commission will allow all of us to acknowledge our shared past, take responsibility for past wrongs, and pave the way to a better future.

The truth shall set us free, when we all agree what the truth is.


Here are some resources on how you can help establish a US Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

More . . . 


Alison Gardner