The United States needs to implement a nationwide truth commission on police violence against Black people, according to Kerry Whigham, assistant professor of genocide and mass atrocity prevention at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
“If recent instances of police violence and public demonstrations show nothing else, it is that the time has come for the United States to hold itself to the same standards to which it holds countless other governments around the world by initiating a large-scale process of dealing with historical and present violations of the human rights of African Americans, Indigenous peoples, and other people of color by governmental institutions,” says Whigham. “A truth commission on police violence against Black people would be a logical place to start.”
To date, over 50 countries around the world, representing every global region, have recognized this reality and implemented truth commissions. Nevertheless, in an ironic twist that illuminates one dark side of American exceptionalism, the United States, a country that has been built on the dual atrocities of the genocide of Indigenous peoples and slavery, has yet to implement a sufficient process of engaging with the historic and continued violence of those collective experiences, says Whigham.
“Truth commissions foreground the experiences of those who have been traditionally excluded, offering them not only a place at the table, but seating them at its head—where the microphone is located,” says Whigham. “In truly listening to people’s testimonies, direction will be given to reform efforts, shaped around the needs of those most impacted. Furthermore, by providing a channel for the lived experiences of Black people to be amplified, white Americans would have increasingly less room to maintain a stance of ignorance or defiant denialism in the face of Black Americans’ experiences.”