Monday, December 10, 2007

Calling for Equality on Human Rights Day

In 1948, with the atrocities of World War II very much in mind, the nations of the world committed themselves to ending torture, prohibiting slavery, and protecting women, children, and minorities. On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became the first international “bill of rights,” announcing the common fundamental belief in human dignity shared by all peoples, cultures, and nations.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the United States delegate, chaired the negotiations. Many who helped her draft the UDHR relied on her vision and on American ideals generally as the guiding lights for guaranteeing future freedoms. But throughout the debates, the legacy of slavery that still pervaded American government and culture undermined the moral authority of what Eleanor Roosevelt had to say. Many delegates from other countries pointed out the hypocrisy of an American telling others how to behave when the United States itself was doing little to stop lynchings and other racially-based violence within its own borders. Some of those other countries even used racism in America to excuse their own human rights abuses.

Today, racial discrimination remains pervasive and destructive in the United States. The U.S. Government recently tried to deny this was the case, painting a picture of harmony in its periodic report to the United Nations Committee to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The denials in that report rang just as false as they did sixty years ago.

In response, Human Rights USA worked with a coalition of US-based civil society groups to document the actual depth and breadth of racism in the United States, and how the U.S. Government has failed to implement the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination. On this anniversary, we reiterate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ insistence that all people are entitled to the same freedoms, regardless of their race or ethnicity. And we reiterate our own commitment to ensuring that the United States is a leader, not a bad example, of how to protect international human rights.


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