Anna Spain Bradley
Parent Category: Racism and Human Rights - Worldwide
Category: International Human Rights
Anna Spain Bradley, Human Rights Racism, 32 Harvard Human Rights Journal 1 (Spring, 2019)(332 Footnotes) (Full Document) (Permission Granted: This article was originally published in volume 32 of the Harvard Human Rights Journal in 2019.)
Racism, in all of its forms, is the underacknowledged human rights problem of our day. Variously defined, racism threatens the lives and rights of millions of people around the world. Despite outlawing racial discrimination through a multilateral treaty in 1965, governments continue to perpetuate and permit racism with impunity and individual acts of racism are commonplace. Its elimination remains an unrealized promise of universal human rights. This Article critically examines why.
The United States offers a sad example where, despite anti-discrimination laws and equal protection rights, the government has failed to protect its people from racism. Police continue to racially profile and murder African Americans at alarming rates, prompting public outcry but little remedy. Law enforcement efforts to curb rape and sexual assault have failed to protect Alaskan Native women, who experience disproportionately high rates of sexual crimes and murder. Latinxs report encountering discrimination by landlords and employers in their efforts to rent homes or interview for jobs, and a recent poll reports that 37 percent have been the target of racial slurs. Islamophobia against Muslims persists across racial groups. In June 2018, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) documented the rise in racially-motivated hate crimes in America. In New York City, hate crimes against Jewish people were up by approximately 6 percent in 2018. Racist-motivated voter suppression, race-baiting speech by politicians, and pro-Nazi symbols have experienced a resurgence. Notably, 60 percent of Americans say the election of Donald Trump as president has worsened race relations.
Of course, racism is not isolated to America. It harms people around the world. Widespread accounts of racism documented by United Nations (“UN”) human rights groups evidence “the rise of racist hate speech and incitement to violence against the Igbo people” in Nigeria, the killing of “60 human rights defenders... many of who were engaged in the fight against racial discrimination and in monitoring the situation of indigenous peoples, and at the low level of investigation, prosecution and conviction in such cases” in the Philippines, and the fact that “black men from sub-Saharan countries are being sold in slave markets in Libya.” In December of 2018, the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Professor E. Tendayi Achiume, visited Morocco and urged leaders there to take “immediate action on domestic racial inequality.” Unsurprisingly, racism is a global problem. Its harms know no national boundaries.
International human rights law began to address such challenges over fifty years ago. That moment of reckoning arrived in 1963, amid the escalating Civil Rights Movement in the United States and deepening independence movements throughout Africa, when the United Nations General Assembly (“UNGA”) adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Two years later, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”) treaty was adopted by the United Nations. The treaty furthered the purposes of earlier international laws banning slavery. Yet, a half-century later, international law's impact in eliminating racial discrimination has not matched its intent.
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