Source: (2003) Intertexts. 7(2): 157-169.

Truth commissions have become a familiar feature of the political landscape. They have been adopted in a wide range of circumstances and serve an array of purposes--among them the shaping of cultural memory. In this article, I focus on truth commissions as an instrument of transitional justice, and their role in creating the conditions for a just reconciliation after a period of human rights abuses. Under such conditions, truth commissions can play a central role in the acknowledgment of the wrongs of the past, which in turn can be crucial to moving beyond these wrongs. The main point of the present article is that these considerations apply to the United States, and, in particular, to problems of racial justice with respect to African Americans. The history of racism in this country remains largely unacknowledged, as do its effects on the present. These facts have done a great deal to warp the public's perception of the realities of race in the United States, and have undermined the support for policies that would be necessary to address the problems of racial injustice. Something like a South Africa--style Truth and Reconciliation Commission, then, may be necessary to complete our transition from our racist past, and to reframe issues of race in a way that would allow us to effectively address those issues. Author's abstract.