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Statement on the Protests against Systemic Racism in the United States

June 5, 2020

This statement is issued by independent experts* of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council:

The recent killing of George Floyd has shocked many in the world, but it is the lived reality of black people across the United States. The uprising nationally is a protest against systemic racism that produces state-sponsored racial violence, and licenses impunity for this violence. The uprising also reflects public frustration and protest against the many other glaring manifestations of systemic racism that have been impossible to ignore in the past months, including the racially disparate death rate and socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disparate and discriminatory enforcement of pandemic-related restrictions. This systemic racism is gendered. The protests the world is witnessing, are a rejection of the fundamental racial inequality and discrimination that characterize life in the United States for black people, and other people of color.

The response of the President of the United States to the protests at different junctures has included threatening more state violence using language directly associated with racial segregationists from the nation’s past, who worked hard to deny black people fundamental human rights. We are deeply concerned that the nation is on the brink of a militarized response that reenacts the injustices that have driven people to the streets to protest.

Expressions of solidarity—nationally and internationally—are important but they are not enough. Many in the United States and abroad are finally acknowledging that the problem is not a few bad apples, but instead the problem is the very way that economic, political and social life are structured in a country that prides itself in liberal democracy, and with the largest economy in the world. The true demonstration of whether Black lives do indeed matter remains to be seen in the steps that public authorities and private citizens take in response to the concrete demands that protestors are making. One example is nationwide calls to rollback staggering police and military budgets, and for reinvestment of those funds in healthcare, education, housing, pollution prevention and other social structures, especially in communities of color that have been impoverished and terrorized by discriminatory state intervention.

Reparative intervention for historical and contemporary racial injustice is urgent, and required by international human rights law. This is a time for action and not just talk, especially from those who need not fear for their lives or their livelihoods because of their race, colour, or ethnicity. Globally, people of African descent and others have had to live the truths of systemic racism, and the associated pain, often without meaningful recourse as they navigate their daily lives. International leaders that have spoken out in solidarity with protestors, and with black people in the United States should also take this opportunity to address structural forms of racial and ethnic injustice in their own nations, and within the international system itself.

* UN experts:

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of 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.

For further information and inquiries, please contact:

Kellie Ognimba (kognimba@ohchr.org),and Minkyong Kim (mkim@ohchr.org)or write to racism@ohchr.org