Posted by PATRICK KENNEDY — Naomi Tutu spoke today at the Clinton School as part of the school’s distinguished lecture series. Tutu was one of, if not the most powerful and well-polished speakers since the school’s inception in 2005 that I’ve heard.
Tutu, who is the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Founder of the Tutu Institute in South Africa, spoke on the topic of “Truth and Reconciliation: Healing the Wounds of Racism.” She detailed her experiences with the infamous Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was assembled after the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Tutu spoke about the simplicity of the TRC model, where victims could make their complaints public while the perpetrators of violence could request amnesty from prosecution. As she called for this model to be replicated on a city-wide scale throughout the U.S., I couldn’t help but to think that a singular model or policy was incapable of addressing the age-old social, philosophical and psychological phenomena of social identity, self-awareness and internal transformation.
Tutu did speak to this, which she termed the ‘unnatural nature’ of reconciliation. She described one perpetrator of violence during Apartheid as two polarized individuals living within one, desperately trying not to acknowledge that the other exists.
Undoubtedly, as was the case with the TRC, there have been successful models to help address and reconcile complex social differences. Yet, history shows us that once one layer of social injustice is shed, it exposes only another. Discrimination has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to adapt, illustrating the necessity for fresh and creative solutions.
I’m skeptical that a parallel model to the TRC would serve our purposes at home and am particularly interested in the multidisciplinary lines of discourse along the issues of social inequality. The emergence of microfinance loans as a tool of social empowerment, for example, has morphed into a larger discussion about gender inequality in the third world. Because the majority of microfinance clients are women, the success of these programs have provided a model of economic empowerment for women as well as facilitate a more candid discussion about gender inequality in impoverished countries.
As we continue to address the topics of racial, religious and ethnic reconciliation at the Clinton School, it is our goal to bring more programs that explore unconventional ways of addressing the roots of social injustice. This will be an ongoing effort that will only succeed with candid discussions like Naomi Tutu’s talk today and a continued interest from the community.