America at critical juncture in fight against enduring systemic racism, says UN expert
14 November 2023
GENEVA (14 November 2023) – A UN human rights expert today urged the United States of America to increase its efforts to address ‘enduring systemic racism’, after a 14-day visit to the country.
“The United States of America is at a critical junction in the fight against racism and racial discrimination,” said Ashwini K.P. UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in a statement following her visit.
“On the one hand, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others, the racially disparate impact of the COVID-19 and large-scale racial justice protests in 2020 brought some of the realities of persistent systemic racism, more into the mainstream American consciousness,” Ashwini said. “This reckoning was translated into a strong commitment to racial justice and initiatives designed by the Biden-Harris administration to improve racial equity,” the expert said.
However, the expert said she was also shocked and sometimes appalled by the multi-faceted and mutually reinforcing manifestations of systemic racism she witnessed in every state she visited.
“These manifestations of racism impacted those from racially marginalised groups at every stage of their lives, historically, systematically and institutionally,” Ashwini said.
The UN expert’s statement described testimonies she received from members of racially marginalised groups, detailing multiple manifestations of systemic racism, including voter disenfranchisement, homelessness, environmental racism, racially discriminatory food systems, inequitable healthcare and health outcomes and discriminatory migration governance systems.
The Special Rapporteur expressed deep concerns about how a climate characterised by deep political polarisation and volatility, economic uncertainty, extreme income and wealth inequality and severe damage to the fabric of American society, is creating fertile ground for hate crime and hate speech.
She stressed that at such a critical juncture, it was vital that the United States Government stay the course in the fight against systemic racism and pervasive hatred.
“This will require significantly increased and more equitable investment, wholescale improvements in the political and public participation of those from racially marginalised groups and further actions to address the political and societal climate,” Ashwini said.
The expert warned that anti-racism efforts must be better anchored in addressing white supremacy, underlying power imbalances and historical drivers of racism and racial discrimination.
Special Rapporteurs 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.