Earlier this month when the United States appeared before a U.N. human rights body to defend its record on racial discrimination. Today, this body — the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — issued its verdict: a 14-page-long scathing report on the U.S. failure to fully comply with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in numerous areas affecting racial and ethnic minorities. While it commended the Obama administration for steps it has taken to combat racial discrimination, it highlighted the gaps between the administration’s stated commitments and the glaring reality of laws and practices that continue to discriminate against and disproportionately impact people of color and indigenous communities.
The committee’s findings are based on hundreds of pages of reports submitted by the U.S. government as well as advocacy groups, which are then produced after a public hearing in Geneva attended by a high-level U.S. delegation. The U.S. review coincided with the protests in Ferguson after the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, a development that did not go overlooked during the hearing. Members of the committee were also moved by testimonies from the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, who attended the review to share their loss and lessons to be learned from their own tragedies.
The recommendations released today address structural and pervasive forms of discrimination in the United States, which often go overlooked in public debates sparked by the loss of human life due to the unjustified use of force. They offer a blueprint to end racial discrimination and to promote equal opportunity. They include calls to:
- End racial profiling by adopting the End Racial Profiling Act and swiftly revising the 2003 Justice Department Guidance on the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.
- Stop the militarized approach to policing, which has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and to immigration law enforcement, which has led to killings at the border, mandatory detention of immigrants, and deportation without adequate access to justice.
- Ensure that allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials is promptly and effectively investigated; that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions; improve the reporting of cases involving the excessive use of force, intensify its efforts to prevent the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, and strengthen oversight of and accountability for inappropriate use of force.
- End racial disparities in the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local levels.
- End the system of administrative detention without charge or trial and ensure the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility without further delay; guarantee the right of detainees to a fair trial in compliance with international human rights standards, and ensure that any detainee who is not charged and tried is released immediately.
- Abolish laws and policies making homelessness a crime.
- Develop a comprehensive plan to reduce school segregation and address the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Ensuring the availability of affordable and adequate housing for all, including by effectively implementing Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
- Guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to effective participation in policy-making and decisions that affect them; adopt concrete measures to effectively protect the sacred sites of indigenous peoples; effectively implement and enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 to halt the removal of indigenous children from their families and communities.