Truth and Reconciliation? Maybe Not.
On November 3rd, 1979, members of the Communist Worker’s Party and their supporters began assembling in front of a housing complex in Greensboro, NC. They intended to march under a banner which read “Death to the Klan”. Before the march could get under way, several carloads of Klansmen and neo-Nazis arrived on the scene. After receiving taunts and thrown rocks from the angry crowd, the white supremacists retrieved guns from the trunks of their cars and opened fire, killing five persons and wounding eleven others. The incident became known as the “Greensboro Massacre”. The men who carried out the killings were acquitted by two all white juries. The white supremacists and the city of Greensboro were later found to be legally liable in a civil trail, and ordered to pay hefty restitution to the survivors and the families of the dead.
Recently, a non-government sanctioned Truth and Reconciliation Commission was organized in Greensboro. Based on similar commissions set up in South Africa, it sought to hear testimony from all persons involved and bring some sense of closure to the community. Surprisingly, several Klansmen present at the massacre agreed to testify before the commission. They were unapologetic, maintaining that they acted in self-defense. While the Communists did in fact do much to provoke the Klansmen before the march, this hardly seems to justify the mass killing that resulted. It appears that the commission will in the end be unable to bring the victims and perpetrators to any sort of reconciliation. The hatreds that divided them in 1979 show no signs of abating.