Reconciling Greensboro

Ed Cone disagrees with Doug Clark's proclamation that while Greensboro needs the Truth about what happened in 1979, we can pass on the Reconciliation.


I know the stated purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is not to seek recriminations. Furthermore, reconciliation may be a worthy objective, when it's necessary.

But for most people in Greensboro, I suspect, reconciliation isn't seen as necessary simply because they don't hold themselves responsible and don't think they owe any apologies.

Maybe that will change if the commission sheds new light on old ideas. Perhaps its mission would have been more readily received if it were limited to finding Truth rather than also promoting Reconciliation.


I was 17 years old when the killings took place. I didn't shoot anyone, provoke anyone, or fail to protect anyone. I'm not responsible, and I don't feel I'm being asked to apologize.

That's not the point.
The facts won't make the marchers look good, they won't make the Klan look good, and they won't make the police look good.

But setting them down in a document, and recording the overlapping beliefs and fears and misunderstandings around those truths, all of which persist to this day -- that will be a step forward.

It's the healing we lack.

This is a chance at reconciliation in ways that go way beyond Nov 3 1979.

These are precisely the discussions that the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission is designed to engender. It's precisely the conversation this city should have had with itself years ago regarding this incident. In voicing their suspicions about the work of the Commission and doubting the need for such a re-examination, opponents are giving the best testimony to date about what's broken and how, perhaps, to finally fix it.

In some ways, Greensboro is very fortunate. We do have landmarks of civil rights progress, of which we can justifiably be proud. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report, and the spirit in which the community receives it, can be another of those landmarks.

Many other cities -- like Monroe, Georgia, for example -- are not so lucky. Their particular tragic moment is much older than ours -- nearly 60 years old, in fact. But their city, like Greensboro, still suffers. It is still divided. It is still full of mistrust. It still consists of people afraid to speak the truth. And they are not reconciled, to their common past or each other.

Greensboro should know better. Greensboro can do better. It's time to stop debating the merits of a process that's already well underway, and start talking about what we're going to do with it.

People do care. This does matter. We are divided. It is needless. This is an opportunity that's part of, not an obstacle to, the city's revitalization.

If we don't deal with this, it really won't matter how many baseball tickets we sell. We'll always be Greensboro -- a place like Monroe, Georgia -- where "the best people in town won't talk."

The greatest wounds in human history, the greatest injustices, have not happened through the acts of some individual perpetrator; rather through the institutions, systems, philosophies, cultures, religions and governments of humankind. Because of this, we, as individuals, are tempted to absolve ourselves of all individual responsibility.

However, unless somebody chooses to identify themselves with corporate entities, such as the nation of our citizenship, or the subculture of our ancestors, the act of honest confession will never take place. This leaves us in a world of injury and offense in which no corporate sin is ever acknowledged, reconciliation never begins and old hatreds deepen.
-- The International Reconciliation Coalition

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