On Friday (January 29), the U.N.’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent completed its assessment of the status of Black people living in America, which included an 11-day tour where members met with community organizers, law enforcement officers, attorneys and others to understand how structural racism, xenophobia and anti-Blackness impact human rights.
In the its preliminary findings, the working group said it was "extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African Americans.” Their report discusses White supremacy, mass incarceration, the Patriot Act, media bias, racist voter ID laws, food deserts and revisionist history. It also speaks the names of Black people killed at the hands of police.
A key passage:
The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the US remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent. Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another, continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today. The dangerous ideology of white supremacy inhibits social cohesion amongst the US population. Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality that the US must address. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.
Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynching of the past. Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Racial bias and disparities in the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, and the tough on crime policies has disproportionately impacted African Americans. Mandatory minimum sentencing, disproportionate punishment of African Americans including the death penalty are of grave concern.
During this country visit, the experts observed the excessive control and supervision targeting all levels of their life. This control since September 2001, has been reinforced by the introduction of the Patriot Act. We heard testimonies from African Americans based on their experience that people of African descent are treated by the State as a dangerous criminal group and face a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.
The report also includes several recommendations, including:
- Establish a national human rights commission with a division dedicated to monitoring the rights of African-Americans.
- Provide reparations for people of African descent who continue to be impacted by the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
- Erect monuments, markers and memorials to educated about racism and its legacy.