We celebrate the first woman — and woman of color — to hold the office of Vice President, and the step toward a more inclusive and just society that it represents.
We affirm the voices of all those — from across the political spectrum, in positions of power and in our communities — who have spoken out since January 6 to condemn the violent insurrection and blatant display of white supremacist ideology at the U.S. Capitol. We continue to call for accountability at all levels and a renewed commitment from all of us to actively root out systemic racism in our society.
We know there is much work to be done.
While the transfer of power is now complete, it was anything but peaceful. The presence of 25,000 military troops in Washington, D.C., clearly represented the level of threat to those taking office and to our democracy. Continued warnings of potential violence in cities across the country, and the deep ideological and political divisions still so apparent in our communities. They point to a much longer road ahead for building peace in the United States. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with more than 400,000 lives now lost, drags on.
The inauguration, like the Biden-Harris campaign, made healing America its primary message. Now the new administration must turn its words into action. If they are serious, we believe these five steps should be taken immediately to pave the way toward a more peaceful and just America:
People living through and suffering from conflict and oppression have unique lived experience and insight into many of the challengessocieties face, andthe solutions needed. The new Administration should center these voices and ensure that they are able to lead the work of healing in their own local communities. Restoring a common narrative in our country – one which recognizes the truth of our history as well as the present – and creates space for everyone who has suffered from violence, racism, and conflict, to speak and listen to one another is an important part of beginning the healing process.
Local communities are already confronting racism, opening dialogue, and healing across divisions. An example is the U.S. Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation movement, which supports reconciliation and healing in cities and states across the U.S. National efforts to promote healing in the U.S. should support and build upon these existing efforts. Legislation by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in the last Congress called for a U.S. Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission. This should be reintroduced and expanded to include dedicated funding to support local healing efforts, linked to national leadership and coordination.
Despite growing recognition overreliance on force and militarized security approaches, in both our domestic and foreign policy, fail to bring real safety, the U.S. remains addicted to the myth that more violence is the answer to our problems.
National, state, and local budgets reflect this. The U.S. military budget — at nearly $800 billion — dwarfs all other domestic and foreign civilian agencies, making up about half of all discretionary spending. This is an appallingly bad distribution of our country’s resources, given the real threats to our country and communities are: health pandemics, white supremacy, gun violence, climate change.
Investing in locally led peacebuilding — which allows communities to lead in addressing the root causes of the conflicts they face — is more effective, less costly and leads to more durable positive change. It’s long past time to shift funding away from militarized approaches to our problems and invest seriously in the hard work of undoing injustice and building real peace in our communities and in support of communities around the world.
Decades after the civil rights movement, the U.S. is reckoning yet again with the depths of racism in society and the lack of progress toward real justice for all. The new administration should recognize that uprooting systems of oppression and building sustainable peace in the U.S. will take leadership, investment and support for community-level efforts.
A network of local justice centers was federally outlined by the 1964 Civil Rights Act to provide community-level support for addressing racism and discrimination. For years, these centers were vital in building stronger community relations and working locally to end racism, and many still exist today as mediation centers delivering vital work and coordinated by the National Association for Community Mediation. Unfortunately, over the years most federal and state funding for these local centers has dissolved. The new Administration and Congress should reinvest in community based peacebuilding structures, such as the mediation and justice centers, as a vital part of strengthening the long-term resilience of America.
One silver lining to all the division and turmoil the U.S. has been experiencing is that the blinders of American exceptionalism have finally been pulled off. No longer can the U.S. propose to lead in the world on issues of global democracy, human rights, and peace while violence continues erupting in its streets and systemic racism remains so deeply entrenched in our institutions and society. The new administration needs to repair the enormous damage to U.S. relations in the world it will also need to re-enter the global community with a new sense of humility, cooperation and shared problem-solving. This will not be easy for Americans, but it can help ensure we become a better partner in building a more peaceful and just world – at home and abroad.
Peace Direct looks forward to working with communities around the U.S., and with the new administration in Washington, to continue the long journey, toward a healed America.