A Season of Reckoning
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
In this national election week, when patience is a virtue, we are witnessing both a societal transformation and a deeply divided country. The question on my heart and mind is, "How do I handle this?" Whatever one's political party may be, we all are finding ourselves at the same juncture this week. What is the road to repair and restoration? For me, it is a commitment to holding myself, my leaders, my lawmakers, and my president accountable.
There is no way forward without dealing with our nation's past history of slavery and genocide. Even the Electoral College itself is in part tied to America's history of slavery. In the October 30th NPR Throughline podcast, Carol Anderson, professor of African American studies at Emory University said, "The Electoral College is really about the fears of the Southern states at the founding of this nation that the larger Northern states would dominate. They wanted guardrails all the way through the Constitution that would protect slaveholder power."
The last efforts to abolish the Electoral College were the Bayh-Cellers Amendment of 1969 and the Every Vote Counts Amendment of 2005, both of which failed. The Every Vote Counts Amendment was reintroduced in 2009, along with two similar resolutions, and all three died in committee.
With the first element of accountability being truth-telling, I'm reminded of a quote by James Baldwin that was the catalyst for my book, An Unintentional Accomplice: A Personal Perspective on White Responsibility. "This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it."
It starts with acknowledging that all have been harmed by this "innocence which constitutes the crime." Then a repair is owed by anyone who participated in or benefited from this harm - as individuals, in private and public conversations; as leaders in business; as elected officials across all jurisdictions. Actions of accountability mean substantial resources allocated to communities harmed by violence, including mass incarceration. There are numerous world-wide, highly successful, restorative justice models we can follow to rise up via accountability such as Rwanda's Truth Commission, or the National Unity and Reconciliation Committee.
This Thanksgiving season, let us commit to doing the individual and collective work of reckoning and seize the opportunity for all of us to reap the benefits of creating a nation better than it ever was.