U.S. still perpetuates racism
Published Mar 4, 2009 3:45 PM
The Obama administration’s recent announcement that Washington will
boycott the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia,
and Related Intolerance should give pause to anyone who thinks that the U.S.
has fundamentally changed its domestic and foreign policy to now provide help
for oppressed peoples or nations. The administration has said that it will
boycott the Geneva meeting unless its participants change the final document to
drop all references to Israel as a racist state, as well as any demands for
reparations for slavery.
A number of activists and groups, particularly Black ones, are petitioning the
Obama administration to reconsider its boycott of the U.N. conference, which
will be held in Geneva from April 20-25. The Geneva conference is a follow-up
to the landmark 2001 conference held in Durban, South Africa.
The Durban conference adopted a Durban Declaration and Program of Action that
recognized that “slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity
... especially the transatlantic slave trade.” This was the first such
international acknowledgment, and it sparked a movement for reparations that
included class-action lawsuits against several corporate beneficiaries of the
slave trade, as well as a 2002 Millions for Reparations rally in Washington,
In addition, the DDPA recognized “the inalienable right of the
Palestinian people to self-determination.” (www.un.org) U.S. and Israeli
government representatives walked out midway through the conference, ostensibly
to protest a draft resolution that condemned Zionism for perpetuating
racism—a quite correct resolution, in our opinion.
Both governments, accustomed to rewriting history in favor of Wall Street
interests, were highly embarrassed that massive opposition countered their
racist policies at home and abroad at the 2001 meeting. Now, notwithstanding
the election of the first Black president in U.S. history, neither Washington
nor Tel Aviv wants to risk facing the same kind of scrutiny at the Geneva
In the U.S., racism and national oppression have only intensified since
2001—exposed by the disproportionate numbers of women of color subjected
to subprime mortgage loans, increased police brutality against and
incarceration of Black and Latina/o people, and staggering unemployment levels
in communities of color. While Black people suffer disproportionately even more
as a result of the financial and economic crises, as detailed in the United for
a Fair Economy’s State of the Dream 2009 report, the call for reparations
is something the ruling class cannot bear.
According to the Washington Post, “U.N. officials have urged the
administration to participate in the review conference, saying that the
election of the first African American president presents the United States
with an opportunity to inspire other minorities around the world and to
highlight U.S. progress.” (Feb. 20) Yet it is the fear of uncovering just
how little progress has been made that has stayed the administration’s
Meanwhile, Israel just recently suffered a major political defeat, arising from
its brutal attack on Gaza. With massive, worldwide rallies condemning Israel
for weeks; Israel’s inability to obliterate Hamas after 22 days of
genocidal attacks on the Palestinian people; and a growing movement for
boycott, divestment and sanctions—the last thing Israel wants is more
attention called to the apartheid nature of the Israeli occupation. And the
U.S. can’t challenge the racism of Israel, its client state, at the same
time that it perpetuates that racism with military funding and political
The bottom line is that a U.S.-profit-driven foreign policy toward Israel and
the Palestinians—not to mention the rest of the Middle East—and its
domestic policy toward Black people and other people of color have not just
maintained the same institutional racism despite the new administration. This
racism has intensified in response to the crisis of capitalism.
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