Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission
December 5, 2012
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On November 3, 1979 Greensboro, North Carolina was witness to a violent act that displayed the racial tensions due to the evident presence of the Ku Klux Klan and lack of social justice for African Americans. On said day, a group of African American members of the Communist Workers Party had joined to march against the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in this area. The CWP was strongly involved in the defense of not solely workers issues but rather social issues at the time. In this case, the abuses on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan. On November 3rd, the CWP had began to organize themselves at a local housing project in order to begin the rally, shortly members of the American Nazi Party along with Ku Klux Klan members arrive to the area, and a shoot out ensued. While many claim that a CWP member was the first to open fire, other witnesses claim that it was a member of the American Nazi Party who started it all. While members from both sides were jailed after the event, a strong divide occurred marred the town of Greensboro for a long time. Not only had the town already been divided because of race issues, but due to this even the tension was no longer hidden, but outwardly displayed.
As a response to the Truth Commission in South Africa, residents from Greensboro initiated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2005. The goal of the commission was geared towards “healing and reconciliation of the community, clarifying the confusion and reconciling the fragmentation caused by these events and their aftermath, acknowledging and recognizing people’s feelings, and helping to facilitate positive changes in social consciousness and community institutions”. In 2006 the Commission published a report of their findings while they state that “serious limitations in the resources available to us, as well as fear of and hostility toward our process have restricted our ability to review all the evidence available. The truth we have found is necessarily imperfect because new facts might later come to light that would demand new or altered conclusions. Indeed it is our hope that others who come after us will continue to perfect the collective truth of this event.” The Commission was seen as a success by others because it demonstrated how an issue that took place more than 30 years ago, was still having an impact in the present and action should be taken in order to correct the tension that still remained.
While the lack of significant economic support might appear to be a negative issue, this is the first ever recorded truth commission in the United State and it will be interesting if other communities may recur to these methods towards solving local issues. Dependency over the conventional judicial system predominates, however, this particular commission may serve as a testament that alternate ways to present justice do not infringe on issues of sovereignty and are viable ways towards achieving reconciliation. Even if arrests were made, it is evident that punitive measures do not solve the entire problem, other components must be brought in, and truth commissions present themselves as a good complimentary tool.
the final report may be found here under conclusions on the left side column: http://www.greensborotrc.org/