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Open letter on World Conference on Racism

Published Apr 23, 2009 6:52 PM

Following is an edited version of an open letter entitled “U.S. Refusal to Participate in Durban Review Conference: African Americans and People of Color Speak for Ourselves!” which was posted by African Americans & People of Color Support the Durban Review Conference. Go to http://www.petitiononline.com/Durbanii/petition.html to sign the letter.

The election of Barack Obama as U.S. president was an important development in the direction of democracy. It represented an ideological blow against the hold of racism and white supremacy on national political elections. Many Blacks and People of Color worldwide have great hopes that his election among other things represents a leadership willing to take a strong stand against racist U.S. and global policies, systems and governments.

The refusal of the Obama administration to participate in the Durban Review Conference on racism to be held in Geneva on April 20-24, 2009, without preconditions that restricts the conference from addressing the issue of Reparations and the racist and genocidal nature of Israel’s oppression of Palestine, is truly a big disappointment. It not only departs from one of the important meanings of the Obama election—unifying a political majority in opposition to racism; it represents a total disregard for the collective agreement of the vast majority of the world on the issue of Reparations and is an act of complicity with violations of human rights as stated in the United Nations Charter.

Little attention has been given to the fact that in the U.S. alone, it was Black and [email protected] communities who were the targets of the unjust and discriminatory subprime loan schemes of Wall Street and the financial markets. These loans preyed upon the legitimate aspirations of millions of Black and [email protected] families for adequate housing and home ownership. Various analyses of the housing market crisis indicate that Black and [email protected] communities are disproportionately impacted and will “lose between $164 billion and $213 billion” as a result of predatory lending, thrusting thousands into economic crisis, homelessness, poverty, devastation.

The International Labor Organization reports that women will also be disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis, exacerbating the historic elements of gender-based discrimination worldwide. Increases in unemployment worldwide will hit women workers the hardest. According to the ILO Bureau for Gender Equality, “women’s lower employment rates, weaker control over property and resources, concentration in informal and vulnerable forms of employment with lower earnings, and less social protection, all place women in a weaker position than men to weather the crisis.”

Increased racially-motivated and gender-based violence is being documented across the globe as the downturns from the economic crisis linger in developing as well as developed countries. Every continent has seen a rise in violence against women, gays, immigrants, and non-majority nationalities. “Rising inequality can result in an increase in racial bias for scapegoating or advancing xenophobic and isolationist tendencies,” the reports say.

We are witnessing the speed of the U.S. government in granting trillions of dollars of the people’s funds to bail out the banks and corporations which are part of the historical chain perpetuating the oppression and violation of human rights against Africans, African descendants and Peoples of Color nations and communities. Yet the U.S. refuses to address the demand for reparations by the victims of oppression, as an essential component of the equality and democracy it claims to champion inside the U.S. and internationally.

We therefore call on the Durban Review Conference to recognize the voices of African-American and People of Color delegations and coalitions from organizations and social movements throughout the U.S. in this important deliberation, to arrive at a report that frames, mandates, informs, reviews and reinforces accountability to international conventions and standards on human rights.