•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle


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, D.C.

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 conference.

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 Obama

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 hand.

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 support.

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.