Democrats in the House of Representatives recently introduced a bill hoping to declare an “unconditional war on racism,” which, if passed, would establish a new federal agency called the “Department of Reconciliation.”
The bill was introduced as H. Res. 919 by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), and its full title is “Declaring an unconditional war on racism and invidious discrimination and providing the establishment of a Cabinet-level Department of Reconciliation charged with eliminating racism and invidious discrimination.”
H. Res 919 invokes Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of an “unconditional war on poverty” and Barack Obama’s inaccurate assessment that if LBJ “hadn’t declared ‘unconditional war on poverty in America,’ millions more Americans would be living in poverty today.”
The bill also states that “racism and invidious discrimination — like poverty in 1964 — remain pervasive in our country” and that “systemic and institutionalized racism and invidious discrimination exist in virtually all areas of American life, including policing, criminal justice, housing, banking, voting, employment, education, the environment, and health care.”
Just before stating its resolution to declare unconditional war on racism, the bill states that in “the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd” it is necessary for “Congress to take decisive, immediate and long-term legislative action to address the elimination of racism and invidious discrimination.”
In its resolution, H. Res 919 resolves to condemn racism and discrimination as “antithetical to the United States Constitution,” declares an “unconditional war on racism” in which Congress will provide the resources for racism’s defeat, and establishes a Cabinet-level Department of Reconciliation that is tasked with developing a “comprehensive national strategy to eliminate racism.”
The bill stipulates that the Department of Reconciliation will operate with a budget “equivalent of not less than 10 percent of the Defense Department’s budget.”
The head of this department would be the secretary of reconciliation and would be appointed by the president and approved by the Senate in the typical form for selecting Cabinet-level secretaries.
Ibram X. Kendi, a public intellectual and one of the most prominent voices behind the “anti-racist” movement, has previously called for an “anti-racist” amendment to the United States Constitution that would create a Department of Anti-Racism.
Kendi said, “The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity.”
Following the end of apartheid in South Africa, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established by the country’s “Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act.” The TRC was led by Desmond Tutu and, despite not dissolving South Africa’s racial tensions, is generally viewed as a successful endeavor.
In 2008, Canada launched a similar initiative to address concerns of Canada’s indigenous populations.