Racial Justice

Racial Justice

The ACLU Human Rights Program works to ensure that the U.S. government complies with universal human rights principles in addition to the U.S. Constitution. The Program uses human rights strategies to complement existing ACLU advocacy. More

Race has been inextricably woven into the fabric of the United Nation’s human rights framework from its very inception. The relationship between the role of race in America and international human rights is a complex one in which each sphere affects the other. Although the United States pioneered many advances in racial justice, developments in the international arena have resulted in the United States falling behind the rest of the world in some respects. 

As a result, ethnic and racial discrimination and inequality remain ongoing and pervasive problems in the United States. Policies and practices at the federal, state and local level continue to disproportionately burden the most vulnerable groups in society: racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and noncitizens, low-wage workers, women, children and the accused. Minorities are unfairly victimized by racial profiling. People of color are profiled while they drive, shop, pray, stand on the sidewalk waiting for work, or travel on airplanes, trains and buses. Immigrants have become the targets of frequent racially discriminatory acts and statements, and laws at the local, state and federal levels have enshrined this kind of discrimination and profiling.

The ACLU works within the international human rights framework to advocate for racial equality and fight discrimination at all levels of government. It calls upon the U.S. to heed its obligations under international human rights treaties and address these inequalities once and for all.

Additional Resources

ACLU Suggested List of Issues to U.N. Country Report Task Force on U.S. Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (2012 resource): The ACLU submitted a report to the Human Rights Committee as part of a larger civil society effort to inform the international human rights community about the situation of human rights in the United States.

FAQ: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (2007 PDF): The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the principal international treaty for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, and other forms of intolerance. CERD defines discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

Reports to United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (2007 resource):  The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the principal international treaty for the elimination of racism. CERD requires countries that have signed the treaty to review governmental, national, and local policies, and to amend or repeal laws and regulations that have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination, including those that affect indigenous people, women and non-citizens.

ACLU Racial Justice Program: The Racial Justice Program aims to preserve and extend the constitutional rights of people of color. Committed to combating racism in all its forms, our advocacy includes litigation, community organizing and training, legislative initiatives, and public education.

ACLU Blogs about Racial Justice

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