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US shootings: Use of racist language to gain votes or power must stop, say UN rights experts

GENEVA (7 August 2019) – Following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the USA must take swift and decisive action that demonstrates its commitment to human rights, including the right to equal protection under the law, say a group of UN human rights experts*.

“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of those who were murdered,” said the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Chairperson of the Working Group, Ahmed Reid, said: “The United States must recognise the direct impact that racism, xenophobia and intolerance have in promoting violence and in creating fear and instability in ethnic and religious minority communities. Perpetuating racism perpetuates violence.”

Special Rapporteur E. Tendayi Achiume added: “There should be no doubt that the use of hate speech, intolerance, bigotry and racism by politicians and leaders to secure or maintain popular support renders those individuals complicit in the violence that follows.”

The Group of Experts and the Special Rapporteur, speaking jointly said: “The increasing use of divisive language and attempts to marginalise racial, ethnic and religious minorities in political speech has functioned as a call to action, facilitating violence, intolerance and bigotry. The connections between mass shootings and white extremist ideology are well-established, and celebration of these atrocities in white nationalist social media is common.”

“The manifestos and social media posts of these attackers reflect political discourse that devalues and dehumanises people on the basis of their race, religion, immigration status and/or ethnicity. The attackers in several mass shootings cited this rhetoric, along with ideas propounded by white nationalist movements and populist movements, as inspiration.

“The refusal, in the face of repeated incidents to pursue immediate and direct action to prevent further acts of domestic terrorism exacerbates these politicians and leaders’ complicity in the violence. Particularly in the light of the American Psychological Association’s recent statement confirming that mental illness insufficiently explains the proliferation of mass shootings, we encourage the United States to address such violence without delay as a matter of white supremacy and racism,” the Working Group and the Special Rapporteur said.

“The use of race to instil fear, gain votes or power, or mask injustices must stop. Those with privilege and power have a heightened responsibility to mitigate, not encourage, racism, intolerance, and bigotry. Communities and leaders throughout the United States should take seriously their obligations to prevent further tragedies and protect the human rights of all equally and without condition.”

ENDS

(*) The UN experts: The  Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts: Mr. Ahmed Reid (Jamaica), current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms Dominique Day (United States of America), Vice-Chairperson; Mr. Michal Balcerzak (Poland); Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa), and Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III (The Philippines); Ms E Tendayi Achiume, (Zambia), Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page  – United States of America

For more information and media requests please contact:Mr. Niraj Dawadi (+41 22 928 9151 / ndawadi@ohchr.org) or write to africandescent@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /
jlaurence@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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