What Biden's win means: Truth and reconciliation

As the Biden-Harris administration prepares to take power, Crosscut asked six opinion writers to share early thoughts on what comes next.

don jr, donald trump and melania trump

Healing our past wrongs must begin with a thorough accounting of transgressions committed by the Trump administration, write Fawn Sharp and Mathew Randazzo V. (Evan Vucci/AP)

It is an existential necessity that America finally face its darkest truths and reconcile ourselves to our core values. 

As Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic amply proved, we cannot treat a disease we refuse to acknowledge. Through a reckless disregard for the truth, we become complicit in its spread.

The 574 Tribal Nations that have experienced four centuries of trauma, genocide, rape and pillage will no longer accept lip service. Likewise, we must relieve Black Americans of the trauma of living in a hostile civic society defined by arbitrary state violence, mass imprisonment, systematic voter disenfranchisement and the multigenerational deprivation of resources from their communities.

America must draw the line with this generation to finally confront and remediate past and present wrongs — starting with a thorough and honest accounting of the Trump administration’s transgressions. 

We can’t let this essential work be sabotaged or shortchanged by the Washington D.C. establishment’s self-immunization from accountability. We either establish a precedent for accountability that was lacking after Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Iraq War and the 2008 economic crisis, or risk inviting a more authoritarian and lawless counter-attack.

The Biden-Harris administration must take a full-court press approach and utilize every investigatory and disciplinary tool available to the federal government to reveal the truth, devise effective solutions, bring the corrupt to justice and restore the constitutional balance between the three branches of government.

We need presidential truth and reconciliation commissions on the systemic abuses that Native Americans, African Americans and Latin American migrants all face; congressional select committees to provide a comprehensive overhaul of the laws restraining executive overreach, police violence and carbon pollution; and gloves-off inspector general and criminal investigations into the flagrant abuses of the Trump administration and its corporate accomplices.

Truth and reconciliation is not simply a racial matter. Working-class white families are also economically and politically disenfranchised by the inhuman corporate machinery that controls our institutions and toxifies our lands and food, preventing vastly popular reforms like Medicare for All, drug decriminalization, law enforcement violence de-escalation strategies and action on climate change from gaining national momentum.

The Biden-Harris administration offers hope that the executive branch will at least consider bold reforms. But passing the type of drastic legislation necessary to put this republic on a sustainable path will require the mass organization and activation of the public at large. 

Our society and governments can no longer serve the Dow Jones Industrial Average instead of the life, liberty and happiness of its citizens or the indispensable health of our ecosystems.

We are the ancestors of future generations.

We cannot leave them a sick, fatally flawed society.

To heal our country we must be courageous, and boldly confront generations of injustice and exploitation.

Read more Crosscut contributors on what comes next:

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About the Authors & Contributors

Fawn Sharp

Fawn Sharp

Fawn Sharp is President of the Quinault Indian Nation and the President of the National Congress of American Indians.

Matthew Randazzo V

Matthew Randazzo V

Matthew Randazzo V is a former government executive who advises Tribal Nations.