United States State Department officials this week will present a human rights report to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Two Human Rights Network representatives from the Twin Cities will also be present to offer a dissenting “Shadow Report.”
The International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) racial justice treaty was signed and ratified by the U.S. in 1994. It calls for the U.S. to submit progress reports every two years on identifying, correcting and remedying racism and racial discrimination in this country.
However, U.S. officials have only submitted one such report since ratifying the treaty.
“I didn’t know this treaty existed until a year and a half ago,” said Minneapolis-based attorney Peter Brown. It came to his attention when a lawyer from California spoke about it during a National Lawyers Guild conference in Minneapolis a couple of years ago.
“It has been ratified by the federal government, the House [of Representatives] and Senate, and signed by the president,” Brown pointed out. “It is part of the supreme law of the land under the United States Constitution.”
A United Nations human rights review panel will examine the U.S. report, which was released in April, 2007, in Geneva February 21-22. Along with this report, the U.S. Human Rights Network has filed a “Shadow Report” with the ICERD charging that the Bush administration not only fails to comply with its obligations under the treaty, but also has whitewashed the reality of racial inequality in America.
“The United States Human Rights Network read the Bush report and completely disagreed with it,” added Shawn Stuckey, St. Paul NAACP legal department co-chair. On the Bush report, he says, “The U.S. gave a very glossy situation. They highlighted certain bit parts of happenings in racial discrimination and covered over many of the bad parts. They didn’t talk about things like racial profiling.”
The Human Rights Network “Shadow Report” raises the following concerns:
• The U.S. government’s report does not mention the internationally recognized race- and poverty-related impacts of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
• Government policies continue to discriminate against immigrants, such as when access to asylum is disproportionately denied to refugees and asylum seekers from Haiti compared to those from Cuba or China.
• Racially segregated neighborhoods and communities continue to exist and are a key mechanism for sustaining racial inequality.
• The report does not discuss the well-documented “school to prison pipeline.”
• The government only chose to provide comprehensive information on four states: Oregon, South Carolina, Illinois and New Mexico. It notably overlooked states with the country’s largest populations of people of color and immigrants.
• The government report highlights training and outreach programs for law enforcement agencies, encouraging sensitivity to Arab and Muslim communities developed in the aftermath of September 11, while completely failing to acknowledge widespread racially and ethnically targeted law enforcement practices.
Minnesota is among several states that submitted local “Shadow Reports” to the ICERD that focus on the failure to implement the U.S. treaty at the local level. These reports have been made part of the official record.
Both Stuckey and Brown contributed to the “Minnesota Shadow Report” and are part of the 60-person delegation in Geneva this week to present the report to the UN panel. Spokesman-Recorder articles by contributing writer Anna Pratt and a St. Cloud racial profiling commentary by St. Cloud State University professor Luke Tripp were included in the report.
Stuckey said that he wants to show the Geneva panel a very different picture of what really is happening in the U.S. “The many things that we in the African American community talk about in general, the way we view racial injustice and discrimination, is not the way other people view it at all,” he noted. “I hope to bring things like that to light when we go to the United Nations.”
“I expect [U.S. officials] will be a little defensive about that,” Brown suggested. “Frankly, I don’t care, because I don’t think things can get much worse. I think they need to be shaken up about it.”
The 14-chapter Minnesota report “shows the wide range of public issues in which there are desperate and negative consequences coming from public policy that can and should be addressed,” noted Brown. “These are all very disturbing areas. Each chapter deals with a horror story of injustice. We could’ve done 32 chapters and still not have reached all the grievances.”
“Minnesota is one of the nation’s leaders in disparities in incarceration rates of African Americans and arrest rates for African Americans, and one of the nation’s leaders in poverty rates for African Americans,” added Stuckey.
A June 2007 study on the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department compliance unit also is included in the report. “It was an extremely clear example of a failure to follow through, or a failure to be serious and take measures that are appropriate and necessary in order to bring forward and achieve quality in terms of economic status between communities,” said Brown.
Stuckey said that whoever wins the U.S. presidency this fall will have to take the report more seriously. “The ‘Shadow Report’ that we have is something that will be shared with the next administration,” he predicted. “It also will be shared with the current administration, but obviously, with the turnover, they really won’t be expected to act [on it].
“I think [the new administration] will use it as justification for implementing some of their policies,” Stuckey concluded. “Depending on who gets in there, one might do more with it than another.”
To view a copy of the U.S. Human Rights Network report, go to www.ushrnetwork.org/cerd. To view the “Minnesota Shadow Report,” go to www.nlg.minnesota.org.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or read his blog, www.wwwchallman.blogspot.com.