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We can’t have healing without reckoning

Around 1000 people rally outside the Des Moines Police Station to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photo: Jon Krieg / AFSC

Our society’s wounds and divisions are laid bare in this moment in which a sitting president is refusing to comply with election results, and so many political leaders are supporting this dangerous brinksmanship. It is time for our politicians to respect the democratic process and allow for an orderly transition to begin – but that does not mean it is time for business as usual. 

It is time for our communities to seek a way forward together – but that way forward cannot come by clinging to the inequities of the past. 

These toxic divisions were not made in this election cycle, nor in the past four years. They are wounds reaching back to this nation’s very origins in violent conquest, centuries of an economy built on enslavement and subjugation, white supremacy, and generations of unreconciled inequality and injustice.  

Healing will not come from side-stepping our differences to appease those – in both parties – who would rather not grapple with these devastating legacies. We cannot reconcile yearning for a multi-racial democracy with systemic racism and white supremacy. Our healing must begin from a place of humility and reckoning, from processes deeper and longer than the crisis of this election cycle, this decade, or even this century. 

We cannot heal when 2.3 million people in this nation are locked in cages.

We cannot heal when 11 million people live in fear of deportation.

We cannot heal when more than 38 million people live in poverty.

It is time to follow the lead first and foremost of communities impacted by oppression and abolish economic policies that favor corporate greed and the overwhelming wealth of a few over well-being for all.

It is time to abandon the political expediency that perpetuates our bipartisan traditions of racism, militarism, and materialism. As we move into a new administration and closely divided Congress, we must reject an approach that consistently leads us to the least meaningful policy changes in the name of compromise. Political gridlock will not be resolved by the same approaches that have repeatedly forced real movements for change to be silenced or sidelined in the name of unity. This approach to governance has failed all of us – leading not only to the exacerbation of racism and inequality, but to the global spread of a deadly pandemic and rapidly accelerating climate change.

It is time for a courageous human-centered approach that transcends political scores to address the deep and existential challenges of this nation, the communities within it, and the world it is a part of. 

As a Quaker organization, we believe that there is that of God in all of us. While the challenges and divisions we face are deep and substantial, we also share a common humanity and a great capacity for empathy, collaboration, and transformation. A healthy, thriving society is within our reach, but it must be built on foundations of integrity, compassion, and equity. This nation – and our global community – has no shortage of wealth. We have no shortage of opportunity. We have no shortage of ingenuity. We have all we need to ensure shared well-being, if we can imagine a different way to live together – one that can ultimately bring better lives for us all.

The way forward begins with a commitment to truth. The way forward comes with reckonings and reparations that will lead to justice, and then healing. The way forward will be difficult beyond measure – but the rewards are nothing short of the beloved community every one of us deserves to inhabit and thrive within. Let us move forward together.


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