While many of us are still processing the domestic terrorism organized by white supremacists and incited by the outgoing president last week, we are already being bombarded by calls for healing, reuniting, and peace. Bipartisan initiatives are emerging, roundtable discussions are being organized, and think pieces asking, “How did this happen?” continue to circulate through social media.
These calls for peace and healing often come from the grasstops of elected officials or wealthy people in powerful positions who fear that these flashpoint events may undermine their tenure or hurt their pocketbooks. However, without tangible steps toward accountability—not only of the individual actors, but also of the systems that emboldened and enabled them to create these harms—these calls for reconciliation are disingenuous and will only serve to further entrench the systemic inequities and structural racism that 2020 put on irrefutable display.
These empty words and pleas are demands for harmony camouflaged as an appeal for healing and repair, designed to tug on our progressive values for inclusion and peace. Harmony as a response to violence (state-sanctioned or vigilante) at first glance can come across as innocent and good intentioned. But upon deeper analysis these calls for harmony actually perpetuate more destruction and harm by silencing those who have been ringing the alarm on fascist factions peppered across the country. These factions have survived and thrived from a long lineage of supremacist ideologies, actions, and policies, beginning with the genocide of Native Americans and continuing with a pattern of human and civil rights violations that makes it possible for children to be stripped away from their parents and locked in cages when seeking asylum and refuge.
Calling for harmony without accountability for harmful acts—reparations to restore and make whole those who were impacted, or reconciliation that points to systemic changes as policies to ensure these ills won’t happen again—is insincere. Rather than disinfecting, cleaning, and applying a salve to heal the wound, the wound will only fester and further spread the infection across the country.
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