Absent from Racial Justice: Obama and Durban II [VIDEO]

By Tammy Johnson Apr 09, 2009

I had the privilege of being a member of the ARC delegation that attended the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa. It was a life-changing experience. I saw people from all corners of the globe engage in honest and difficult conversations about race and government policy, then come together at the end of the day around a meal of friendship and peace. In Durban, ARC presented our report about institutional racism in the US. Sadly, eight years later, the report’s conclusions still hold true. Communities of color continue to be savaged by broken immigration, labor, health, education and criminal justice systems. In 2001, the US government chose not to attend the Durban conference. And this year, the Obama administration has threatened to boycott Durban II. This is disturbing to say the least. In fact, it’s downright hypocritical for the administration to declare this to be a new period of engagement and diplomacy, while using Bush-era preconditions as an excuse to duck the conversation about race. President Obama should not get a pass on this. Taking a stand for racial justice means showing up ready to engage the debate about race, not dodge it.