It is beyond refute that the United States is a world leader, and exceptional, in several categories, although not in those that portray the richest nation in the world in a favorable light. Oh, it is true that America’s military is without peer, American corporations pay some of the lowest tax rates in the world, and the wealthy elite holding most of the nation’s wealth pay minimal taxes compared to most other countries. However, the United States also leads the world in the number of citizens incarcerated, number of guns in the population, number of gun-related homicides, lowest median income in the developed world, most decrepit infrastructure among industrialized nations, and myriad other categories that should humiliate Americans. One area the United States claims to be a leader in is its human rights record that gives it the purview to condemn other nations for human rights abuses (except, of course Israel). But that too, is a claim that is not borne out by the facts according to the findings of yet another United Nations human rights report released on Friday.
After a thorough examination of America’s pathetic record of disparate treatment of minorities, a United Nations watchdog reported what people of color, particularly African Americans, have known first hand and all too well for decades. “Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care, and housing.” That was part of the conclusion of Noureddine Amir, vice chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) reported during a news briefing in Geneva Switzerland. The U.N. racism watchdog called on the United States to halt the excessive police force used after a white Ferguson police officer murdered unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown. The overall gist of the report was that minorities, especially African Americans, are victims of racial disparities in the exceptional nation that regularly condemns human rights violations of other countries.
The United Nations was already examining America’s pathetic racial inequity before the Ferguson murder “shone a global spotlight on the state of race relations in America.” What most African Americans already know, and that many white people support, is that “The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing issue of concern and particularly in light of the shooting of Michael Brown,” according to Amir, an expert on racism from Algeria.
A panel of 18 independent experts leveled some hard questions on a senior U.S. delegation about why there is persistent racial discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities; including within the nation’s allegedly ‘colorblind’ criminal justice system.
The American Ambassador, Keith Harper boasted, likely with a straight face, that America has made “great strides toward eliminating racial discrimination,” but admitted that “we have much left to do.” The panel reminded Harper that Michael Brown’s cold-blooded murder was “not an isolated event and illustrates a bigger problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials.” The committee urged America to conduct investigations into what they accurately noted was the despicable “practice of racial profiling of racial or ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transportation Security Administration, border enforcement officials and local police.”
It was not lost on the U.N. committee that over the course of less than two weeks, four unarmed African Americans were shot dead by law enforcement officers including two that were face down on the ground. In fact, the committee also called for this exceptional nation to begin addressing deliberately erected “obstacles faced by minorities to exercise their right to vote effectively.” The 18-member panel noted the Republican obstacles to disenfranchise people of color “was due to restrictive voter identification laws, district gerrymandering, and state-level laws that disenfranchise people convicted of felonies.”
The committee also concluded that America had a human rights obligation to review the National Rifle Association (NRA) and American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow white people to shoot unarmed African Americans under the guise of “self defense” in 22 states. The panel said America should examine and “remove far-reaching immunity and ensure strict adherence to principles of necessity and proportionality when deadly force is used for self-defense.”
The CERD committee heard testimony from the father of Jordan Davis, the unarmed African American teenager murdered in “Stand Your Ground” Florida by a white man who did not approve of rap music. The man was convicted of discharging a firearm into a vehicle, but acquitted in the cold-blooded murder of an unarmed African American boy. Trayvon Martin, another unarmed African American teenager shot and killed by George Zimmerman, was represented by his mother who testified before the panel and urged them to call for America to put an end to wanton killing of unarmed African Americans with impunity.
A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Jamil Dakwar, said the recommendations by the United Nations “highlighted the shortcomings on racial equality that we are seeing play out today on our streets, at our borders, and in the voting booth. When it comes to human rights, the United States must practice at home what it preaches abroad.” But is that not what a hypocritically “exceptional world leader” does as a matter of course? Regularly identify and condemn human rights violations while turning a blind eye to its own pathetic record on the human rights of its own citizens.
This most recent U.N. criticism follows on the heels of two other condemnations within two months for America’s mistreatment of its poor, and the violation of a basic human right to clean water and sanitation after Detroit officials cut off water to hundreds-of-thousands of its residents. The United Nations has done its due diligence in monitoring American compliance with a treaty it ratified along with 177 other nations, many of whom America condemns as human rights violators.
It is a sad, sad commentary when people of color have to depend on the United Nation’s human rights watchdog to call for their own government to address racial disparity that has existed since the nation’s founding. Conservative pundits claim there is no such thing as “white privilege” in America, but it is certain that men like Bill O’Reilly has never been stopped and frisked, pulled over while driving, or followed around by store employees because he is white. African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities regularly face perpetual subtle, and often blatant, discrimination that their own government is reluctant to address because claiming America has a race problem is the quickest way to be labeled a racist.
Thankfully, the United Nations disregards the unspoken American “race card” statute. Although Republicans will not support, or allow, a review of this exceptional world leaders’ racal disparity, at least the rest of the world acknowledges America is still a racist nation; a source of great pride for the “angry white men” in the Republican Party.