Monday, July 25, 2005

Truth and Reconciliation and Pseudo-Threats

Over the past several months, I've had many occasions to reflect on the connections (and, sadly, sometimes disconnections) between truth and reconciliation. In conversations with people around town and the web, I've realized that balancing the importance we place on these two concepts--truth and reconciliation--is one of my most important roles. If we get too focused on either at the expense of the other, then we risk further harming the community. We are seeking truth because we believe it is the only way to reconciliation; there is no reconciliation based on silenced voices or inaccurate histories. And we can't lose sight of the fact that the overarching goal of this process is reconciliation, as opposed to shaming, punishing, or making money.

Given these noble and somewhat abstract reflections, I've had a difficult morning trying to figure out how to handle the following anonymous comment we received on our blog last night:
"Yall need to realize that this town is ripe for violent actions. Maybe you should just cut your ties now and end this communist agenda before somebody gets hurt. The time is getting near. We will not allow terrorists to continue to brain wash people. End the commission."
How does such a threat-like statement fit into the truth and reconciliation framework I described above? On many levels it seems neither to contribute to a search for truth (the Commission has no agenda separate from truth and reconciliation, nor is it trying to brainwash anyone) nor, obviously, reconciliation.

Equal numbers of people have advised me to remove the comment (thereby removing all comments in this thread) and to leave it up. In the end, I decided to leave the comment where it was originally placed. Although the comment does not feel like it is moving anyone closer to reconciliation, it is a part of the truth around the issues the TRC is examining. Silencing that voice (by deleting it from the website) will, based on the underlying principles of the truth and reconciliation process, not move us toward reconciliation either.

I have no illusion that this anonymous commenter and I are going to hug and be friends at the end of the day, but I do believe that knowing that such perspectives exist in our community might help the rest of us to comprehend the truth around these issues more fully. And I also hope that this response (and the entire site) will help the anonymous commenter to understand the Commission better.

posted by Jill Williams, exec. dir.


Blogger SeymourHardy said...


Very nicely put.

I think you've made a good call.

I would, as others have suggested, consider contacting law enforcement.

There is no telling who wrote it, why they wrote, where they're coming from, what kind of a reaction they hope to inspire--there's no way of knowing any of these things, unless a person is identified, and even then, all of those questions and concerns might not be addressed.

When he pursued researching a 1970 murder in his hometown of Oxford, North Carolina, Timothy B. Tyson encountered even greater resistence and more direct threats than I'm aware of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission facing. (I emphasize "than I'm aware of.") Tyson mentions one example of having a police officer riding his bumper a good distance and even bumping him, which would have terrified me.

I remember reading the article about a man (Bill White) publishing the addresses of Commission members and adding that he "would like to reconcile them with the end of my 12-gauge." That seems at least as clear as the threat of "Death to the Klan."

As I understood it, no direct action was taken in response to Bill White's actions and comments.

Allen Johnson shared these views from a police officer (Art League) who was involved in the November 3rd incident: "Every police department learned what to do. We were the guinea pigs. Everybody learns from mistakes. It took a bad incident for everybody to learn."

But it seems like our hands are often still tied until after tragedy actually strikes.

Columbine High School was a similar "guinea pig" incident, a call to attention for everyone else.

But we still don't know how to treat or handle those students who reveal disturbing tendencies and attitudes.

The same issue comes up with domestic violence.

Even when there's evidence and a history of abuse and threats, we still haven't figured out an exact way to prevent tragic consequences.

The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission is gaining more and more credibility by the way it's choosing to approach its work.

Human beings pay lip service to this desire for the truth, but our desire to know and understand the truth is usually only present when it's not too close to home and when we can dictate and control what the truth is.

At least so far, from my perspective, the Commission seems committed to a healthier pursuit of the truth than most of us are.

And blogging about it only makes the process healthier.

Please continue to keep us updated.



3:25 PM  
Blogger Roch101 said...

I doubt if this rises to the level of a criminal act; still, that may be for law enforcement to decide.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Jill Williams said...

I should have mentioned in my post that I have contacted the police department so they are aware of the comment (as well as the threat from Bill White mentioned by Mr. Floyd).

Coming from a background in criminal and custody mediation, I also share Mr. Floyd's concern about the way we tend to react to violence as opposed to trying to prevent it. I could write about this topic for a while, but I'll let it rest here by saying that one thing I hope will grow out of this TRC process (and that may have already grown out of this tragic event for the police department, as evidenced by Mr. League's quote in the paper) is a better understanding of how to prevent violence like this in the future. In fact, I'd love to hear any suggestions anyone has to add to the assortment that will be considered by the Commissioners later in this process.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Billy Jones said...

Howdy Jill,
As you're well aware I've had my doubts about your work on the commission and have stated so publicly on my blog, but whoever did this is over the top-- way over the top. Threats such as this serve no one except perhaps the fragile ego of whoever posted the threat and the fact that computers are so easily traced demonstrates how careless this individual really is.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Re: Pseudo-Threat

I see that Greensboro has angry cynics, too. My wife, two children, and I are moving from Chattanooga to Greensboro within the next several weeks. While it's disappointing to consider that an anonymous poster could have such a flat-earth attitude, I'm glad to see Greensboro is willing to reflect on its past with honesty in order to brighten its future.

Regardless, I'd be willing to bet that it was just a teenage troll who had been left at home alone for the evening.

9:55 PM  

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