Professor Emerita, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard University
Professor, Africana Studies, Cornell University
Vice President for National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
Dr. Mari Fitzduff, professor emerita of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University, and Dr. Olúfémi Táíwò, professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University, discuss post-election reconciliation in the United States.
FASKIANOS: Good afternoon and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations Social Justice and Foreign Policy webinar series. I'm Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. As a reminder, today's webinar is on the record and the audio, video, and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org, and on our iTunes podcast channel, Religion and Foreign Policy. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We're delighted to have a distinguished panel with us today to talk about reconciliation in the United States. We've shared their long bios with you, so I'm just going to give you a few highlights and then we'll get to the conversation.
First, Dr. Mari Fitzduff is professor emerita of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, where she was the founding director of the master's in Conflict and Coexistence Program in 2004. She served as chief executive of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, which is at the forefront in developing governmental policies and local community programs to tackle decades of violent conflict. She also served as director of UNU/INCORE of United Nations University Centre and one of the world's leading organizations for international research on conflict. Her latest edited book is entitled Why Irrational Politics Appeal: Understanding the Allure of Trump.
Ambassador Swanee Hunt is the Eleanor Roosevelt lecturer in public policy and founder of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. From 1993 to 1997, she represented President Bill Clinton in Austria, where she hosted negotiations and helped create a council of religious leaders focused on stopping the genocide in Bosnia. She is the founder of Hunt Alternatives, which operates out of Washington, DC, and is focused on the nonpartisan elevation of U.S. women in the highest-level elected positions combatting the demand for illegally-purchased sex, strengthening social movements, such as racial justice and climate change, and bolstering women's leadership and stopping violent conflicts. She has authored syndicated columns, numerous articles, and provided commentary, and she holds a doctorate in theology, and served as minister of pastoral care in an ecumenical parish.
Dr. Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò is a professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University. Prior to teaching at Cornell, Dr. Táíwò was a professor of philosophy and director of the Global African Studies program at Seattle University in Washington. His book, How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa, was a joint winner of the Frantz Fanon Book Award of the Caribbean Philosophical Association in 2015. He is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled Does the United States Need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
Thank you all for being with us today. Dr. Fitzduff, let me begin with you to talk about the social-psychological approach to conflict and how you feel it can be applied to post-election America.
FITZDUFF: Thank you, Irina. And I'd like to begin by thanking the Council for setting up this webinar. It's just quite an extraordinary transitional time, and we're hoping for so much over the next four years. But we're also conscious what the last four years have cost many of us. I think the first thing that you have to bring to mind is what do we mean by reconciliation? Are we talking about it between Trump voters/non-Trump voters? Are we talking about people who supported the Black Lives Matter and those who didn't support it? Are we talking about the different factions within our own groups? I'm conscious that we have many people who are involved in a pastor role at this webinar today. I can guarantee probably pretty all of them have had to deal with a lot of differences within their community over the last few years. Or indeed the bitterness within families, which is often so costly to us, particularly those who went home for Thanksgiving or going home for Christmas and are hoping they don't have to have that conversation about politics. It's difficult.
The other thing, I think, we need to try and think about is between how will we know if it's successful? And one of the things that we sometimes fall into is thinking that success means we will feel good. We feel good, good about other people, they will feel good about us. But the reality is that for many people it's actually they’re taking care of systems, they're taking care of institutions to see are they going to be inclusive, are they going to deliver on equity, etcetera? So in fact, if you put those two groups together, interestingly, a lot of the work I've been doing is on neuroscience. And you actually find the neurons of those who have more power in a group like that are actually likely to be more empathetic to people who have less power. But people who have less power find it very difficult to be empathetic about the people who have more power. This has huge consequences for the way we do dialogues. In fact, it turns out that people who feel that they are discriminated against, they're being left out, they feel empathetic when others who have more power feel empathetic towards them. But they do find it hard to bypass that idea, that in fact, as far as they're concerned, there is injustice determining their lives.
And I think it's also important to remember that reconciliation is actually often about emotions. I'm just thinking that how many of us have had the struggle of trying to reason with others about our ideas and found ourselves hitting up against walls we didn't understand. In fact, very often, if you ask people why they believe in certain things—in the middle of Brexit at the moment or why they want to support Trump—very often you find they can't articulate. It's not about issues. It's not about the particulars of social welfare, etcetera, etcetera. It's often something that they feel, much more than what they think. And I think that the fact that feelings are so prominent in these kinds of issues means that leaders can use these feelings very much. I think it's been very clear now to us for some time that Brexit leaders won the Brexit debate here in the UK because they went around and asked people not about what they thought about the issues, what they were going to gain or lose in terms of economics, etcetera, but what they were afraid of and what they were angry about. And they then took all of those feelings together and created a campaign around it. So in a sense, you're talking about people, we're often talking about emotional polarization rather than necessarily ideological and multiple [inaudible].
I think there's also some evidence in terms of the Trump campaign. I remember being very startled when would be President Clinton talked about Trump supporters as deplorables. And talking about them as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic. Imagine if you'd been listening to that, and what it would have done to your self-esteem? And a lot of my evidence shows that, in fact, a lot of people turned towards voting for Trump who were perhaps on the edge of who they would vote for when they actually heard that because of the way they felt about it. So, if we're talking about using—a lot of my work, as you said, I've written a book about why people voted for Trump. My next book is called Our Brains in Conflict. Because very often in most of the conflicts that Swanee and I would be involved in—Swanee, you would know this—often it's about emotions, people who have worked together, who had lived together can suddenly turn against each other. And, in fact, in places like Rwanda and Bosnia, suddenly you find them killing each other. What is this about? It's not about rationality. And therefore, I think, when we think of our programs, we have to think about how we can address these factors. My own doctorate was working at people who had been paramilitary, who've been shooting and killing other people. And in fact, I was interested in those who had changed, and when I looked at it, to my surprise, it wasn't reason that changed them, but it was experiences that were attached to certain emotions that actually helped them shift their views.
So given this, there are three ways I think that we might want to consider about how we address this conflict, and indeed, the same three ways we think of addressing other conflicts as well. First one is about grievances. People who are left out, people who feel they're badly treated, and once that continues, it's almost impossible for them to be empathetic in terms of reconciliation, and we've got to remember that. We would never sign a peace agreement knowing that the same grievances that caused the war were actually going to continue without being addressed. I think the second one is, it's interesting, if you look at, and I have studied a lot of people who follow Trump, and there are some who followed him because they wanted better taxes. There are some people who followed him because of the issue of abortion, I think that's been a huge issue for many people, but they're also some who followed, if looked at their meetings, and the, sort of, the rallies that he had, some people have seen them as a hate fest because they seem to suggest hatred for other people. Others have seen them as a love fest because, in fact, it was people in love with Trump, people in love with each other, they belong to something that never belonged to before, and they felt so good about themselves. Now, the problem about that is what happens when that's gone? Trump will probably lose a lot of people. He's already losing a lot of people on Twitter. He will probably lose because he will increasingly be seen as a loser. But all that need for belonging, that need for being with people, the need for change in their societies, change in the world, that will continue. So I think we also need to look at that. And the final thing that, I think, is particularly relevant when I saw the roster you sent us of people who are here, I'm conscious that there are maybe hundreds of people who are listening who are leaders in their own rights. All the evidence shows that it doesn't really matter that much what prime ministers say, or what presidents say, or what popes say. What matters much more is what your local leaders say and the people in your community who actually are the leaders for the community. So those are the three ways in terms of addressing grievances, alternative ways for people to belong to groups that they feel good about being with, and good about doing in society, and also leadership.
And I want to end with something that gave me great hope when I was thinking of the huge challenge that lies ahead of us in terms of reconciliation. Some of you may have seen, some of you may not. Yesterday, Fox News did a poll. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that almost 60 percent of Trump voters will try to support Biden and will do their best, they will give them a chance. Only 20 percent said they would not even try to work with Biden. For me, that was a surprise. I hope it's a good surprise for people who listened to it, because the rich ground is there for the work that you, the Council, and all your listeners and members are doing. It's a tremendous opportunity for us all.
FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. Let's go to you now Ambassador Hunt. You represented President Clinton as ambassador to Austria during the Bosnian War. Can you talk about your experience with peaceful negotiation during that time as they relate to understanding conflict in the United States today?
HUNT: Yes, but Mari? Mari, you said such important things. Sorry. Sorry, Irina, but I have to, but okay, so number one. Hillary didn't say that the Trump supporters are deplorables. She said there are all kinds of people who are supporting Trump.
HUNT: And there's some of them who are really deplorable. And we think so, too. If you cut that to a soundbite, it becomes that Trump supporters are deplorables. So we know that, right, that that's how politics works. I just want to go on record and say that it's not what she said. But it is what was repeated, but also it is what people heard. To your point, am I in that group or not? Right? So, the other is, and I worked on a taxonomy, I was going to have three sections, there are now sixteen about the Trump supporters. Oh, by the way, those of you who can see, Olúfẹ́mi has these nice books and Mari does and this is my life, right? So I decided I didn't have any nice books so I just showed you my move—the move I’m making. Okay, so I've got boxes piled up. And that's kind of how my brain works sometimes. And but it's okay, because I put these thoughts all together with this taxonomy. And it ends up with the deplorables, all right, number sixteen group. But it starts out with patriots. Yes, there are people who really, really want our country to succeed and they believe with all their hearts that Trump's leadership, maybe—, my sister said she had to hold her nose and vote for Trump. And she was in the second group, I would say. Not patriots, she was like a believer, faith believer. And he, for some crazy reason, seemed to represent the values of her faith. And then you get into the identity, like you were saying, Mari, that identity politics, butI can live with that, too. I'm pro-choice. But if someone says no, we have to protect the life of the fetus, I can go with that. And if that's why, as she said, we needed the Supreme Court. We had to have the Supreme Court, but the deal is that with these different groups, it's not like there's a box. People fit into multiple boxes and the amount they fit in changes with time. And they're porous, the size of the boxes are porous, and the boxes themselves, they get wet, and the lids fall off and, they change shape. So, it's much more complex, but actually, it's kind of like my boxes back here. It's really, really interesting. And we need to be willing to say, "Whoa, nobody understands me. And I don't understand anybody else." Not completely, not completely. So I'm going to make a lot of room for the differences among us, which is hard to do.
I'm from Dallas. I think, well, I was raised Southern Baptist, and I promise I'll get very quickly to the international, but I just want you all to know, I'm the Eleanor Roosevelt lecturer in public policy, my father did everything he could to keep the United States from joining the UN. My father was born in 1889. I found in the archives, I found the letters between him and Eleanor Roosevelt, where, I mean, these are tense letters. So, that's my background. And my sister June and I, whom I mentioned, every Monday at 9:30 we are on the phone, often for two hours, she tells me something she's very upset about politically, and then she has to tell me why. And then she has to tell me one thing she's got to do about it. And I tell her something I'm very upset about, etcetera, the same, except we are completely opposite sides. And the important thing is to say, why is that so important to you? And then what are you going to do about it? And you don't rebut. There is no rebuttal. You just listen and listen. I somehow, I so wish that could become the model. It must become the model in our country.
So in my work in Bosnia, what I thought was going to be the big religious thing was helping create an inter-religious council for Sarajevo with the Muslim community, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, and they all got together, they came to Vienna in our home and worked and worked and created this great statement. Well, it wasn't effective back in Bosnia, because it's not a religious country. But it was helpful outside for all those people who bought into Milosevic's idea where he was saying, oh, well we can't live together. And, the first person I talked to before I went, and I said we've got to intervene, and it was someone, a human rights figure, you would know his name, and he said, "Well, we can't intervene." And, I mean, this is someone who was a hero to me. And I said, "Why not?" He said, "It's a religious war." You can't—religious wars, you get sucked in. I told President Clinton, "Don't do it." And so was it a religious war? And the answer is absolutely not. I interviewed twenty-six women for seven years who were as different as can be. They were every religious group and atheists, and they were rich and poor, old and young, and rural and urban. The only thing that they adamantly agreed was this was not a religious war. And by the way, I didn't ask them. I didn't have a list of questions. I just said, "Tell me, tell me about the war." And I followed wherever they went, and they said, "Well, you know..."—then I'll stop, okay—but here's the typical answer. And I have two dozen of these in my book, which is called, it's a quote of one of them, This Was Not Our War. And I said, "Well, tell me about your kids." She said, "Oh, you should have seen my daughter in her white dress. Her little white dress with her friends." I said, "Why the white dress? "I'm going to confirmation." "Oh, oh, really? Are you Catholic?" She said, "Yes, yes. Oh, they were so cute. And, oh, her friends, who they all wanted to go too even though they weren't been confirmed.” I said, "Huh—why is that?" "Well they're not Catholic." I said, "Oh, okay. And then what did you do?" "And then we all came to the house and then we all got together, all the neighbors and my best friends. We all, had a big lunch together.” I said, "Oh, really, what did you have?" And she said, "Well, all kinds of things. We didn't have a ham." And I said, "Why didn't you have ham?" She said, "Well, because my Muslim friends." And that story over and over and over. And they didn't have to say we are a multi-religious society. And they, by the way, put ethnicity and religion together. And when I would hear these and I would hear in Liberia, the [inaudible] talking about bringing together the Muslim and the Christian communities, women—women—to bring down a dictator. And when I would hear Pastor Esther Ibanga dealing with the extremists in Nigeria doing the same thing—the Christians and the Muslims—I came to understand that the common denominator in all of these was women. Now, that's not a big surprise to you, since Harvard brought me to create the Women and Public Policy Program, right? But I hope I can say something later, I am so hopeful because of the Republican women who were elected in the House, doubled the number, just like the Dems two years earlier doubled their number. We are going to see a very, very significant change in the possibility of breaking gridlock.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. And now let's go to Dr. Táíwò about bringing your perspective on race and reconciliation. And you've been working on this issue, your thoughts on whether the U.S. would benefit from a truth and reconciliation commission. So over to you.
TÁÍWÒ: Thank you very much. First, I want to thank you for including me this conversation. And I want to thank those who are our audience for spending some of their time with us. I always think of that. What I share with you this afternoon comes from my ongoing work in which I'm calling on the United States to strike immediately, yesterday, a truth and reconciliation commission to do the following things. One, acknowledge that as a collective, the country has done harm to portions of its population. The most significant of it being its African-descended citizens on account of their sheer ratio identification. Two, establish the truth of what really went down with Black people in the history of the United States, and how that has shaped pretty much how the country has evolved to the present time. Three, put in place instruments to ensure that such harm is never again inflicted on any group. And four, commit to restoring the wrong group as a precondition for healing after reconciling the whole society. I started doing this work because, having lived here now, this is my thirty-eighth year, I've been a citizen of this country and been a student of the United States even before I got here, in Nigeria. It seems to me as if every time we make progress, we go back two steps. And having looked at other places, including, most especially, South Africa, and seeing that sometimes the argument would make about American exceptionalism hides some of the convergences between the experience of this country and the experiences of other countries that are very much like it, again, especially South Africa. That's when I said, maybe what we need is not another civil rights movement, what we need is a truth and reconciliation commission.
The assumptions here that I'm now going to address, and here they are. One, race has always been ground zero in the history of the United States. It was there when the Constitution was adopted, and Black people were not reconciled. It was there at the conclusion of the Civil War when white people were reconciled. The 1870s is compromised in the election and the removal of federal troops from the South at a time when it was very clear that the South was not reconciled to the status of Black people as full citizens of this country. It is there now when, since 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the presidency and originally declared his candidacy in Neshoba County, Mississippi, where four people, precisely from the college where I teach now, were murdered for their Freedom Rides, and that was where he chose to declare his candidacy for the presidency. The country has been complicit in festering the return of ferocious anti-Black racism that we thought the Civil Rights Legislation of 1964 and 1965 had laid to rest. So my argument is there can be no attainment of the original ideal on which this country was founded until there's full citizenship for its Black citizens. And I like to say, coming down to the specific situation of the recent election, I hope that the Biden administration does not enact another white reconciliation—that was the way it was done after the Civil War—given all the divergences that we have in the country right now and all the cry about unity. I hope that unity is not an attempt again on the back of Black and other disenfranchised citizens. I always remind people the irony is lost on everybody that the country that claims that all lives matter at its founding now needs to be reminded that Black lives matter. That's the lesson for us. Thank you very much.
FASKIANOS: Thank you very much for all of your wonderful perspectives. We appreciate it. And we're going to turn now to the group for their questions and comments. So if you see the participants icon on your screen, you can raise your hand there. If you're on a tablet, you can click on the "more" button in the upper-right hand corner and raise your hand there. And you can also type in the Q&A box a question. If you put a question in the chat, I'm not going to look there for questions. So you can comment there, but please, questions should be in the Q&A box or raise your hand. And if you could please say who you are, and you might want to direct your question to a specific speaker so we can get to as many questions as possible. So first, we have two hands up already. So we're going to first go to Tereska Lynam. Be sure to unmute yourself. Thank you.
LYNAM: Thank you, Irina, for calling on me. This is Tereska Lynam from University of Oxford but currently in Miami. And I'm going to speak to Dr. Mari Fitzduff—you all did such wonderful presentations—but Dr. Mari Fitzduff, every point was singing with me, particularly the things you mentioned about Brexit, and how that aim was really emotionally charged and manipulated as opposed to based on policies that people can get their heads around. In fact, I would argue that today, this fifteenth of December, about two weeks away from when Brexit's actually happening, people don't even know what Brexit is yet. So it's very confusing. And you wrapped up your comments about saying how we need to behave as leaders, because what I understood was people listen to more about how their communities behave and think than about how politicians instruct them to believe and hate, campaign rallies and love that's not withstanding, and I was wondering if you could tease out some examples of how you would like to see the people on this call go forth and bring a unifying message. Thank you so much.
FITZDUFF: Interesting, Tereska. Well, one of the problems that I think we have, because most of us are readers and thinkers, is that we actually think that's how people change. My own PhD many years ago looked at people who were literally using the gun to make their points. And then who have changed and discovered that, in fact, that was the exception. Not too many had reasoned themselves out of hate for the other group. They were much more likely to change because of an experience. And there are a few, and I could mention a few, but I don't want to take up too much time, there's one in particular, I remember, he was a loyalist paramilitary, and he wasn't known to be one but there was this peace group who sort of knew that he was sort of involved in politics. And they got him to come and talk to their group. And eventually, he found himself so much part of that group that he realized this belonging, this was much more important than what he had been doing in terms of his paramilitary activity. You also had many people who, for the first time, met people whom they supposedly thought they hated and had an experience that shows them that, they were just human like them. They had families like them. They cared about certain things.
So one of the things I'm encouraging us to do is to think beyond, and even if there's emotional gestures, I can remember one emotional gesture we made when we had Bono come supposedly at a peace conference and we couldn't get the leaders to actually shake hands on the stage. So I remember we got Bono, we had instructed to go on the final note, he walked on the stage, he took up the hand of one of the leader’s and the other, and he held them in the air. And just that gesture achieved so much goodwill and so much hope among people. Nothing was said. It was just a physical looking at what was happening. So I think we don't explore these enough. I mean, peace agreements often fall apart because people don't feel the peace. They know it's supposed to be there, etcetera, but they don't feel it. So a lot of the initiatives need to take that into account. They also need to take into account, I'll give you an example, though. Ireland, you probably know, has had two referenda recently—one on abortion and one on gay marriage. And both of them were won, because they very sensibly chose as citizen's assembly to do the rational thinking about the issues. And then they put it to a referendum. And if you go look at that referendum, it was the emotions of people, of young people, of families, etcetera, that actually won those very difficult issues that were particularly difficult for Ireland, which is a very Catholic country. So they were thought about very carefully, and then they were won on the basis of the emotions of examples of young children bringing their grandparents to the poll, etcetera, etcetera. So I just think we need to recognize that it's the warmth that we can engage with people is often what will change them.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. I'll take the next question from Rabbi Melanie Aron, "Can you speak more about the potential role of clergy at this time in bringing people together in productive ways?" Who wants to take that? Ambassador Hunt with your degree in pastoral—
HUNT: (Laughs.) I guess I got it, right?
FASKIANOS: You've got it.
HUNT: Well, what we've seen in terms of clergy is, a big swell of women in the theological seminaries. And that happened very quickly, about the same time as women who went into law school, etcetera. So, has that made a difference in terms of clergy? Well, when I go into a church, I am very struck with a woman clergy person. And I'm listening very carefully for the values for the—it's not just expressed values, it's also a way of being, there's a sort of nurturance. I wrote a piece on the motherhood of God many years ago. And these women clergy seem to be very much able to express that. Now, that may be what you would expect in the kinds of churches I go to. I go, actually, to an AME [African Methodist Episcopal] church also. I have for a few decades, actually, which is a Black church, and there'll be like five hundred Black faces and like me. (Laughs.) I said to the pastor, "I'm diversity, you need more diversity." So, I warm up—you know why I go there? In part is because it's the kind of music that I'm used to because I was raised Southern Baptist, like eighteen-hours-a-week Southern Baptist. So when I was thinking about the Southern Baptist world, I was realizing that the entire, not just when I was growing up, but even now, there are no women pastors. And in fact, I'll tell you how far it goes. You know how there'll be a platform, there's the podium and the platform with, let's say, five or six people who are doing prayers or reading scriptures. There are no women on the platform. There are no women on the platform. So where are the women? Well, when I was going to seminary, I was at admissions and I was looking, well, they couldn't find my card. They couldn't find it. And so finally they said, "Oh, no, no, no, no. Your husband is Mark Meeks." I said, "Yes." And they said, "Well, here's his card. And I said, "Yes, but I’m Swanee." Right? And they said, "No, no, but you're registered there." I said, "No." So then they had put me in children's education instead of, as you know, I'm studying systematic theology. And so there is such a gap in that conservative world where I'm not now, but that's part of what we're up against. If you think about the politics, etcetera, you find that in the clergy—clergical world, also. That's an extremely important part.
Mari, I'm thinking what you said about the local leadership. People want to belong to some kind of group, that's part of my Trumpian taxonomy. There is that sense of the normative group. They also just want to belong, like belong to a gang or whatever. But also, they want to feel like they're in step with. And the church or synagogue or the faith group creates a norm. And we have got to focus on that. And then when I think of Joe Biden, I think, you know what, you won't find anyone more devout than Joe Biden is. Jimmy Carter, right? And by the way, Jimmy Carter was First Southern Baptist, maybe the only Southern Baptist ever as president. And I remember going to First Baptist Church in Dallas and hearing from the pulpit why we must not vote for Jimmy Carter. And that's pretty raw. Look, you all, I know I'm talking a lot about the evangelical world because I actually know that world. And my guess is that a lot of people on this call don't. And I need to get inside of their heads for you. These are not bad people. Mari, you said to me when your husband was going across country, was he on a motorcycle? Anyway, he—what did you say?
FITZDUFF: Bicycle. Yes, on the bicycle.
HUNT: Yes, okay. And you said, you quoted him saying, "You know the nicest people that I came across in the diners—they were the Trump supporters. They would take off their MAGA hat and see if your tires had enough air.” Keep that in mind.
FASKIANOS: So I'm going to take two—another question from the chat. I'm also going to read a comment from Reverend Dr. Stephen Ohnsman, who represents the Calvary United Church of Christ. His perspective is he thinks “our division, our problems” go all back to his belief “that we're still fighting the Civil War. Racism is our original sin and isn't South versus North, it's what sides of the argument over race and equality you are.” And then Galen Carey, who heads up the National Association of Evangelicals, has a question for you, Dr. Táíwò, about the TRC proposal in South Africa: “Those who testified were granted immunity in exchange for truth. Here in the U.S., most white Americans don't face legal liability as beneficiaries of white privilege, what would be the incentive for those who would testify before the American TRC?”
TÁÍWÒ: I think the first thing to realize is that there has been at least, well, they are true but the most significant one that I've studied was the TRC in Greensboro, North Carolina. And they conducted it with the advice of people from South Africa. And it actually offers a model for what can be used nationally. It was all the case about murder, about court cases, nobody getting convicted. But, as a result of striking details in Greensboro, all those who took part went out to talk about what they did on the fateful day that the incidents happened, as a precondition for the community to acknowledge the hurt that had been done to particular groups within the city as a precondition for moving forward. Now, there are all kinds of ways in which we can talk about incentivizing people, to come forward. Remember, depending on what time frame we choose, we can go all the way back to the founding of the country, and we can do like they did in South Africa, they just decided to go back to 1961 to 1994. And what was important was to write into the report how the country got to that particular fork in the road. I think we can learn from that. And we can work out what the committees will be.
FASKIANOS: Terrific. Galen, I see you also have your hand raised. Are there any comments you want to add to that? You have to accept the unmute prompt.
CAREY: Yes, thank you. So, I guess what I'm understanding is that your thought is that this would be about people who did actual crimes coming forth to confess them more than just how all the people who in general benefit from white dominance of our society and economy and so forth.
TÁÍWÒ: Naturally, again, the circumstances in this country are not be exactly the same. We can get the scaffolding, as I call it in the book, from South Africa, from New Zealand, even from Canada. But who would put on the scaffolding would pay attention to this specific mix of the historical development of this country, and that will mean a much wider pool of people come in to enter stuff into the record. Think of Tulsa, 1921. Think of Rosewood, Florida. Those are all elements that will have to be entered in because people need to know that even when Black people, in their isolation with racism, created wealth, built cities, white resentment won't stand those cities. And many of the students that I teach don't know this. And many people buy into the idea that if there are problems that Black people continue to have, their problems that relates to Black culture, if not, all of the horrors, Black personality. Those are the things we need to enter into the record as a condition for changing even the way we tell the history of this country from grade school all the way to university.
FASKIANOS: Thank you, let's go to Shaik Ubaid, he has raised his hand. And please unmute yourself. Thank you.
UBAID: Wonderful presentation and thank you for this opportunity. Can you hear me?
UBAID: For truth and reconciliation, I think we have to first make sure that both parties understand each other. For example, reparations are so important for closure and healing, but if the majority community is not made to understand why the talk of reparations will actually help further polarized and help demagogues like Trump and Bannon, etcetera. So, having been part of a community, which was victimized here in the U.S. in the last four years, especially, and also in India, which has seen the rise of Nazi-like ideology, and having been involved in seeking peace and justice in Bosnia and Burma, I'm also worried that we have to be more focused on delivering justice. For example, in Bosnia, especially Biden was the person who imposed the agreement. The community, which suffered massive atrocities, including mass rapes and genocide, was not given justice and the closure and healing has become so difficult there. So, similarly here the African American community has not received reparations. But before all that to start, we have to address the natural fears of the white community when they see the demographic shift and they see the browning of America. So the role that the intellectuals and the clergy plays is very important. And we need some concrete steps to help the clergy teach their congregation about why we should understand the other side and why healing and justice is so important for the whole community. That was my comment.
HUNT: Okay, can I just ask for clarification. I wonder if you, maybe, just misspoke when you said Biden was in—Mari, do you want to say or shall I—okay, when you said that Biden was involved with the splitting of Bosnia. Is that—
UBAID: When the final agreement was made, Biden played an important role, Joe Biden, in the final agreement where Milosevic of Bosnia was, his arm twisted to accept the partition of Bosnia and so that is what was going on towards the end of the war. The whole world probably was tired of the genocide, but unlike in Germany, Bosnia did not see that justice.
HUNT: Well, you and I have different information on that. Joe Biden was the chair of the committee that confirmed me as ambassador and his passion was Bosnia. And when I went as ambassador to Austria, he was pushing me to do whatever I could to bring the Clinton administration to intervene to stop the genocide. And we were opposed by the CIA and the Department of Defense, in fact, but Biden was the one who—he heralded my work dramatically in terms of bringing people together. So I'm surprised that he played that role at Dayton with the final agreement. I hadn't heard that. I don't want to be defensive. You go ahead, Mari, save me.
FITZDUFF: Swanee, sorry for distracting you. I was just so struck by the previous comments. One of the things, and this may not be very fashionable thing to say, Dr. Olúfẹ́mi, I know it may not be to you or to Shaik Ubaid, but I'm thinking in terms of, I know, there's a bit over about forty truth and reconciliation commissions, and some of them have been more successful than others. One of the problems they've run into, and indeed we run into it at Brandeis with the Black Lives Matter movement, was that when we try to address issues for those who are African American heritage, we then had others who were Native American, we then had others who are from Africa itself lately come, and we almost had a competitive kind of victim/race happening in terms of who’s actually needs would be addressed. Now, we face this in Northern Ireland and the civil—obviously in Northern Ireland, those of you who know the history, Protestants were better off than Catholics and had been deliberately so. So the civil servants were very eager to actually favor, and those who wanted to end the war, to favor programs that would favor Catholics. But then you've got into a problem because there were some rich Catholics and a lot of poor Protestants. So my sense is, once we'd go to look at the question of inequality, if we try to do an identity, we come into so many problems. If you actually try to do it in terms of actual poverty, or exclusion from education, or any of the other sort of norms that actually prevent people from being included and thriving in our society, you actually have much less of a backlash, because, for instance, we did see a backlash from people who were seen as white and poor, and they felt they were being ignored in terms of people who are Black and poor. I think, we're probably better developing our programs against poverty rather than actually against identity, because identity actually can be very messy. I mean, for instance in South Africa, and I know quite a bit about that commission there, South Africa they rightly began to say, companies and NGOs, etcetera, how to have a proportion of Black population. But actually what happened there was it was a few Black people who happened to have the education, and therefore the opportunity, actually took many of the positions of power of inclusion, etcetera, and still there were a lot of people who were left behind. Whereas those people who are left behind are really the people that we need to, in a sense, help to come through in all of their glory as it were. It's not a fashionable way to look at it, but I do think looking at programs of equality and inclusion in terms of identity, it just brings up so many problems, as we would know in the United States.
TÁÍWÒ: Can I come in here?
FASKIANOS: Absolutely. Go ahead.
TÁÍWÒ: I think there are two issues here that we need to separate. A truth and reconciliation commission is specifically about this particular category of hurts. Truth and reconciliation commission is not about economic projects. It's only to the extent that the harm that was done impacts economic situations that we begin to address that. And in this particular case of the United States, what cannot be denied are two things. One, the genocide against the Native peoples, okay, and the taken away, of land and all that, and chattel slavery of Black people. Now, there are some qualitative differences even when we talk about that, you do have multiple sovereignties for Native peoples in this country. And as many white people are realizing, Oklahoma being the most recent example, even though whenwhite colonists signed those agreements, they had no intention of recognizing them. The law is now catching up with them, more than a century later. And the Supreme Court is saying that is Indian land. End our story. You don't have that option for Black people in this country. And my argument is that when you read the record, at every point anti-Black racism has remained a specific kind of racism that continues not to be addressed, and I'm saying the only way to address this is the truth and reconciliation method so that people actually see that racism covers a lot of ground in this country, but there is a specific anti-Black racism that needs to be addressed. And actually, I have argued that a lot of the protests right now against police killings, and so on and so forth, come from a continuing refusal to grant that Black people are routinely human. And you don't find that with any other group that has been denied in this country.
FASKIANOS: So we have two on point questions. So I'm going to just throw both of them out there. From Marina Buhler-Miko of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, "trying to use a model of truth and reconciliation practice by Archbishop Tutu in South Africa," she found "that it's hard to duplicate it in other cultures. What is missing is a strong sense of importance of community that grows out of the African Ubuntu theology. How would you talk about that?" And then Richard Rubinstein got to your point, Mari, he's at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School at George Mason University. He "admires all of you. The conversation has been divided by ideology, religion, cultural values, and race, but can true reconciliation take place without major changes in the system that produces such gross social and economic inequality? Do we have to do something about the excessive power of the super-rich and the split between technological and blue-collar workers?" So put both of those out there. I know, you've gone at it a little bit, you might want to dig in a little bit more. Dr. Táíwò, do you want to respond first? And then we'll go to Dr. Fitzduff.
TÁÍWÒ: The argument that Ubuntu does not travel to other cultures? Is that the question?
FASKIANOS: I think it's more not that it doesn't travel, but the importance of community that grows out of the theology might not be in other cultures. That's how I'm interpreting that comment.
TÁÍWÒ: Yes. I think—
FASKIANOS: It's harder to follow the model.
TÁÍWÒ: Yes, I think part of the problem is that people too often reduce the TRC in South Africa to Tutu's theology, and again, I think the two can be separated. The reason why I use South Africa is that South Africa and the United States share something in common, which is the racial dimension of this. And in a way that, for instance, the Eurasia dimension is present in New Zealand, you know, but it is more in terms of genocide and deprivation of taking people's land and all that. Whereas in South Africa, it was a deliberate effort to dehumanize and degrade the Black people. But the other part that, again, comes out of that, and this is the point that I've now made, societies that have gone with the truth and reconciliation commission, are precisely those societies that are worried that they have become unrecognizable to themselves. And it is an acknowledgment that this is now who we are and we can do better than this that drives the effort to even forgive very heinous crimes as a precondition for creating a different society. That's why the truth and reconciliation commission is not strictly speaking a legal justice mechanism. It is a mechanism for moving closer to what Martin Luther King calls the "Beloved Community," in where do we go from here. And that is why in all those countries, including, significantly Rwanda, you cannot go back and prosecute all those who are involved. But you want everybody to realize "we did this, that is not us, and we will never again create a condition that will make us go there." So that is what the United States, I'm saying, can learn from that procedure. And it is, again, that's why I call it "ground zero," to reconstitute the ideals on which this country was founded and move closer to it by making a whole those who have been harmed as a precondition for making the whole society whole again.
HUNT: Irina, let me speak after Mari, okay?
FITZDUFF: Well, I just want to briefly to say, I think, since you've been studying it, the truth and reconciliation commissions, they do often fall short. And for the very good reason that, for instance, South Africa, a lot of people who said they were looking for the truth and found the truth, it wasn't till afterwards they realized they were disappointed because they didn't have justice. In Rwanda, there has been a very interesting system called the Gacaca system, which is a community system, which might well be better suited for the United States. But even there you found it was tainted by power because by and large, it was the Tutsis who were challenged rather than the Hutus. So every truth and reconciliation commission will take on as it were some of the existing power patterns that there are. And also the nature of reconciliation itself, I've spoken to the person in charge of the 9/11 Commission, in terms of the victims, and he said something to me. He said, "People who are victims, it's almost impossible to give them what they want." Because first of all, like 9/11, they really want their people back again. So inherently, this work is very, very difficult. I've spoken to a lot of people who've been involved in it. I think the discussion about it is really useful—really useful—because then we begin to see what are we trying to do with it and who is going to be part of it? Who needs to be there? Who has the power? Who needs to be there? Who feels there's a victim? So I encourage the discussion, but no way is it an easy path forward as you've already acknowledged. Swanee, sorry.
HUNT: And I was just about, I just wrote a note about Rwanda right before you said it. I wrote a book actually called Rwandan Women Rising about how they became the highest in the world, by a longshot in terms of women's representation in parliament. And by longshot, I mean, 64 percent and the next was like 52 percent. I attended a couple of the Gacaca trials and Gacaca, of course, meaning "on the grass." After the genocide—my numbers, maybe, it's yes, this is how wildly off I could be, it's either five-hundred thousand or eight-hundred thousand—essentially men in the prisons, and there were fifty lawyers, so obviously, the regular system wasn't going to work. And it was women who actually designed the Gacaca system, and for the first time there were women judges there. And in a significant number. Of the hundred people who were tried in the tribunal in Arusha for having planned the genocide, there was one woman. And Mari, in terms of the power dynamics, 90 percent in Bosnia, I think, almost any human rights group will tell you that they are estimating 90 percent of the human rights violations were committed by the Serbs, not the country, not the Republic of the Serbs, but by Serb leadership, paramilitaries, etcetera. So it's easy. The military would say we've got to be evenhanded, right? What is evenhanded mean? Does that mean—and one of them said to me, we have to have, a four-star general, we have to have a same number of Croats and Bosniaks, the Muslims, and the Serbs at the tribunal. And I said, "No, I think evenhanded means you have a base idea, which is did you commit atrocities? And we look past the power part in terms of—it's about atrocity. So again, the women, because that's what I do, okay, I do women, but the women in Bosnia, one of the reasons those trials were successful is they went to testify, and they had to go to The Hague, by the way, from Sarajevo. This was a big deal. And they went, and they supported the women who were going to testify about the rapes. So it's not just that the women prefer—and so it's not just that the women were raped, it's that they went and testified about it and they weren't going to be able to do that if they didn't have the support of other women who went on the plane with them, etcetera, etcetera.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. I'm going to go next to Gabriel Salguero. I know you have your hand raised and you've written your question, but I'm just going to let you ask it directly.
SALGUERO: First, thank you. Thank each of you for your time. My name is Gabriel Salguero. I'm the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. And I want to talk about leadership. You all mentioned in terms of reconciliation, justice, restitution. What about leaders who inhabit multiple spaces? To some degree, Ambassador, you spoke about women in leadership, conservative women, how they may change. Dr., you spoke about evangelicals. Hispanic evangelicals, one-third of them voted for President Trump. And two-thirds of them voted for President-elect Biden and [Vice] President-elect Harris. And so oftentimes when we start talking about evangelicals and reconciliation, now I'm talking about the particular U.S. present reality, among others, we often forget, to quote Ralph Ellison, to the "invisible" persons of evangelicals of color, who are often speaking to issues of racism and restitution and criminal justice reform, but at the same time, hold to some of the evangelical tenants that you've mentioned, Ambassador, of the Southern Baptists and others. And so there may be a unique role in missional context, it's called "third culture people," who inhabit multiple roles. And what is their role, the leadership of faith people of color, in the work of reconciliation or restitution? I'm quite concerned that much of the liturgy, literature, and much of the reading doesn't speak to that. Actually, in Bosnia, there were some evangelical gypsies that I worked with that had an interesting role, because they worked with the Gitanos in our community and they were evangelical and poor people. So the leader of people of color who inhabit multiple roles, sometimes conservative, sometimes progressive, sometimes historically oppressed groups.
HUNT: I was thinking when you spoke, I was thinking, I wonder, that kind of sounds like Jesus, this sort of third culture people. I mean, people forget Jesus was a Jew, right? And he was breaking every, every norm and talking to people he wasn't supposed to be talking to and especially condemning the religious people. He was really, He was really a maverick there. And He seemed to not identify with any one particular group in terms of all of the different Jewish groups at the time. He was like his own person. And when He would speak, it was this huge draw to others because of what He was saying it was so iconoclastic, this idea of you forgive, forgive, and forgive. And you will forgive seven times, no, you forgive seven times seventy, which means all the time. So I link that to the whole truth and reconciliation concept. What do you all think about that, Mari and Olúfẹ́mi?
FITZDUFF: It's not a field I know enough about to speak about it.
HUNT: Good, then I can say whatever I want.
SALGUERO: Well, I just wondering why there's not much literature on the role of that type of leadership, because they cross pollinate so many constituencies that are often crossing, talking past each other. Where is the kind of—or maybe there is literature and I've missed it? What is the role of that type of leader who inhabits multiple spaces often contradictory and opposing spaces?
HUNT: They get crucified.
TÁÍWÒ: No, no, listen, about that is, that I don't come from that area. Because for me, trying to separate and then in academia, the way people always find some narrow neck of the woods that they want to focus on and then ignore the kind of complexity that you're talking about, is something that personally, as a teacher, I struggle with and part of what I was trying to encourage my students to address precisely what you're talking about. Just to add to the categories that you have mentioned, many young people that I teach think that to be Black and conservative is a contradiction in terms. So they don't even know that there's a very strong tradition of Black conservatism in this country. And in a few years down the road, I'm planning to put together a class on that, just to inform the young people who come to me. So yes, I'm with you. And we sometimes drop the ball.
FASKIANOS: Go ahead, Mari.
FITZDUFF: I don't want to say anything about the issue, because I don't know enough about it. But having looked at your roster, I would have thought there are many people who are part of that community that you're putting together, that actually would be very interested in these possibilities. And it could be a possibility that perhaps could be taken up by Gabriel at some stage in the future.
FASKIANOS: Terrific suggestion. There are several questions in the chat looking at the role of social media. How can you repair society when power turns on such divisions, social divisions? What role can social media play in local community building? Do you have good examples of grassroots community building or resiliency through the use of social media? And then obviously, we do have this role that the media is playing. I think you mentioned Fox News, but then you have these two farther right news organizations now that are really putting people in very different universes. So if you could talk a little bit, in your experience, give us your thoughts on those issues?
FITZDUFF: Well, this actually is something I have been writing about for quite a few years. Because I could give you examples from dozens of conflicts around the world where peacekeeping efforts, peacemaking efforts, were destroyed by people using social media to distribute rumors, etcetera. The people who've been doing a lot of work on this are the Alliance for Peacebuilding and they actually have—and the Toda Institute—and they actually have begun to get together the peace-building community to actually address these issues.
One very interesting example is actually the Baltics because they are so near Russia, which, of course, is king of the distribution of fake news, etcetera. They actually, every school actually has to have classes, which look at ensuring that children are educated about how they read the media, how they read social media, so they can learn to see what's fake news, how they're being manipulated, etcetera. Frankly, our field of peacebuilding is one of the biggest challenges that we're facing. But luckily enough, I think people are beginning to rise to it. So anybody who's interested to have a look at the Alliance for Peacekeeping, they have a whole committee that actually has a huge number of resources on how a lot of the peace-building communities are beginning to get together to address this. And not only that, but actually we have Facebook on board. We have a lot of these, sort of, major distributors of social media on board as well, who are beginning to take on the issue that peace is being destroyed by the kind of tricks and treason that many people are actually using it for and are very willing to work with our community in terms of addressing it. So the news is very bad news but accompanied with a little bit of good news.
FASKIANOS: Thank you, I'm going to go next to Jonathan Golden. Jonathan, you have your hand raised and you typed your chat. So why don't you just ask your question?
GOLDEN: Yes, hi, thank you so much. So, yes, I've done some research also interviewing victims, survivors, and, perpetrators of these crimes and acts of sectarian violent conflict. And I kind of always do ask the question about whether or not there should be a truth and reconciliation process and so forth. And this is, particularly looking at Israel, Palestine, and looking at Northern Ireland. And obviously, in the former, we're not in a post, far from a post-conflict situation. And so, the question is, do they envision going forward, would that be helpful? What I often hear a lot of is that many people anyway have said, many of the survivors, that they don't see it as particularly helpful, that they feel that there's a point where, after which hearing more and more of the horrors that happen is piling on, that it's opening up old wounds. And, there's a famous case in Israel where there was a—one of the people that was involved in the Munich Olympics, kidnapping and murder, who then years later reemerged as a negotiator who was doing work with Israel, and it was kind of a "don't ask, don't tell." And as soon as he went public, that he had been involved with it, Israel said, well, now we can't talk to you anymore. I've had people on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland say the same thing. So that would be my question to you is where, to the whole panel, where do you see a kind of tipping point where there's like too much truth?
TÁÍWÒ: I don't think I can ever be too much truth. And I think the problem is that people keep thinking of this in legal terms. Unfortunately, I have to say, processing the whole truth and reconciliation as part of some kind of transition of justice, I have found, has not been helpful. Truth is one part; reconciliation is another. The way I like to put it is we can have truth without reconciliation. But we can never have reconciliation without truth. And when people always say that, oh, yeah, people committed heinous things, they get away with it and all that, the society is concerned with how do we, in the context of a single citizenship, move forward and build a better society? We already have examples in this country. Gary Ridgway, who is one of the most efficient serial killers in this country, was spared the death penalty because he was willing to take people to where he dumped bodies, where people's bodies can be found, so that those families will actually come to some awareness of what happened to their people. And they were willing for that information, because it's more important for them to honor their dead than it is to see him put to death. That doesn't do anything for anybody. And my point is that we need to move away from via the charity as a legal mechanism. In fact, people choose the TRC because they come to what I call, "the limits of the law." And once we come to an awareness of that, there's a whole lot that, look, in South Africa, they could have gone back to 1910 where they got independence. They could have gone back to 1948 when apartheid was imposed by the Afrikaners, they could have, but they just said, we need a slice of our time so that we can just tell people, no. Stuff went down in this country, and we need to ensure that future generations not only know this, but that they do everything they can to make sure we never fall in that hole again.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. We have so many raised hands and questions. We are not going to get to them all, but maybe we could close with Ian Draker's question and it gets to facts. "Truth and reconciliation presupposes that all sides will recognize and acknowledge the truth when it is presented. We've just seen in this election that the country, some cannot agree that the last presidential election was fair and honest, and that Biden is indeed the president-elect. So what do we do? How do we advance truth? Or how do we put forward facts and bridge this divide of what's true and what's not?" And maybe we can go around the virtual table for each of you to take a couple of minutes to just give us your closing thoughts.
FITZDUFF: Okay, I'll start then. And if it's obvious that people can't face facts, I think the thing you have to think about is why not? Would it cut them off from the group? Will it change their perspective on life that they don't want to change? Will a challenge significant beliefs? There's a very good reason why people choose their own facts, because they want them to fit with their perspective. And to do anything else is probably too challenging to them. So the work you'll often have to do is being—the first thing we often think of is challenging people through facts. It never works making people defensive. You often have to build up trust, build up relationships, and then facts can be then be agreed between you. But I think the problem is we often cannot believe that people don't believe the same way that we believe and we forget that people believe what they believe for very good reasons of community, of personality, etcetera, etcetera.
FASKIANOS: Ambassador Hunt?
HUNT: Well, I'm going to be consistent. The election was called on the seventh of November. And that same day, Lisa Murkowski called Joe Biden to congratulate him. And on Sunday, it was Mitt Romney. And on Monday, it was Ben Sasse and Susan Collins. Two of the four were women. Totally disproportionate to the number of women in the Senate. And it was two weeks before the next Republican called. So I'm going to go out there and tell you that women introduce bills way, way more than men do, meaning like ninety a year compared to seventy a year. And not only that, but they also get co-sponsors, sponsorships nine times on average, and men get six. So I think what we need to do to heal the country is for every one of us to be encouraging the election of more women. And the Republicans have decided to diversify or die. And that is a very good thing that they have figured that out. And they ran a whole lot of Republican women against Democratic women, which was the smartest thing they possibly could have done. And yet the Democratic women held their own. They maintained their numbers from two years earlier where they had doubled their numbers, and now the Republicans have doubled.
You all, I know, it sounds like, why does she keep talking about this, but there are reasons. There are reasons. If you have women, you all, in terms of internationally, I don't know if you know this, I'm sure you do, Professor Olúfẹ́mi, but normally a peace agreement after war last five years, it's average. If you have women signatories to that agreement, there is three times the chance that it will last twenty years as if you compare it if you only have men. Those are real numbers. Those are real lives. What I just described is millions and millions and millions of lives. And we can do this, we can do something about this internationally. We can do it in our own country. We just have to sometimes say, surely this is too simple, right? No, it isn't too simple. Let's put on a gender lens. Don't be afraid of it. It's not being chauvinistic. Take a look at the data.
FASKIANOS: Dr. Táíwò, over to you for the final word.
TÁÍWÒ: We have to restore confidence in the existence of truth. There are no multiple truths. And there are no alternative truths. And I can tell you, many of us in academics are responsible for creating this condition where people think there are liberal truths and there are conservative truths. And to the extent that we can train the future generation to recenter that common task of trying to come to the truth collectively, in spite of all our disagreements, the greater the likelihood that we'll be able to do some of the things that both Mari and Swanee have asked us to work on. And I stand with that. Thank you.
FASKIANOS: Thank you all very much for this wonderful conversation. We really appreciate your being with us and to everybody's questions and comments. Very rich dialogue. I'm sorry, we could not get to you all, but we have a tradition of trying to end on time. We've gone over a little bit, my apologies. So I encourage you to follow our distinguished panelists on Twitter. You can follow Dr. Mari Fitzduff at @TheHellerSchool, Ambassador Swanee Hunt at @SwaneeHunt, and Dr. Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò at @AfricanaCU. We hope you also follow us on our Religion and Foreign Policy Program on Twitter at @CFR_Religion for information about events and information about the latest CFR resources and also please do send us an email to [email protected] with any suggestions on future webinars or speakers or whatnot. We look forward to hearing from you. So again, thank you all. It's been a wonderful conversation.
HUNT: You did a good job.
TÁÍWÒ: Thank you very much. This has been great to meet all of you. I really appreciate it. And thanks for making me a part of the conversation
FITZDUFF: And I hope we meet again. Better time.