FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Group Calls State Department Report a “Complete Whitewash”
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today released a scathing preliminary analysis of a recent government report to a United Nations committee about the state of racial discrimination in the United States. The report was submitted to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva.
“While we eagerly anticipated the government’s submission of this report, it is, unfortunately, a complete whitewash,” said Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU's Racial Justice Program. “The report purports to describe the state of race relations and intolerance in the United States, but it ignores the continuing persistence of structural racism and inequality in this country. Moreover, the report suffers from major omissions of topics like the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and police brutality."
The State Department released the report on April 23 to the CERD committee, an independent group of experts that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a treaty signed and ratified by the U.S. in 1994. All levels of U.S. government are required to comply with the treaty’s provisions, which require countries to review national, state-wide and local policies and to amend or repeal laws and regulations that create or perpetuate racial discrimination. CERD also encourages countries to take positive measures, including affirmative action, to redress racial inequalities.
Since ratification, the U.S. has submitted only one report in 2000 on its compliance with the treaty, which combined three overdue reports. The United States was due to submit additional reports in November 2003, but failed to meet the deadline. The recent U.S. submission combines two overdue reports covering 2000 - 2006. The CERD committee is expected to review the U.S. report early next year in Geneva.
According to the ACLU’s initial analysis, the State Department report is full of misrepresentations and omissions. For example, the report states that reasons for disparities in incarceration rates between whites and minorities is related to criminal activity, but solid research by academic and government sources demonstrates the disparities are due to government policies and disparate treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system.
Striking omissions in the report include no mention of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath; the “school to prison pipeline,” whereby the criminal justice system overzealously funnels students of color onto a path toward prison; or the dramatic increase in hate crimes and xenophobia in America. Moreover, despite the clear requirement to provide state-related information, the government only comprehensively reported on four states – Oregon, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Illinois – inexplicably neglecting to provide adequate information on racially diverse states such as California, Texas, New York, Florida, or the Gulf Coast states devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the U.S. submission fails to report on gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination and on the treatment of migrants and non-citizens.
“A U.S. government report on racial discrimination that conspicuously omits any reference to the most poignant situations in this country that reflect the still pervasive state of racial injustice is not only misleading, but is of little value,” said Chandra Bhatnagar, Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s Human Rights Program. “How can this information be used to improve conditions when it is hopelessly lacking in completeness and accuracy?”
In contrast to the State Department’s release of other major reports on human rights issues, there was, in this case, no media outreach or even notification given to the non-governmental organization (NGO) community or civil rights organizations about the publication of the report. Instead, the State Department quietly posted the report on its website.
The ACLU, as part of a wide coalition of social justice and human rights organizations led by the U.S. Human Rights Network, will submit an independent shadow report to the CERD committee later this year which will detail the government’s failure to comply with its CERD treaty obligations.
“We will continue to call on the U.S. government to live up to its promises to end racial discrimination and to meet its legal obligations to submit more comprehensive and accurate information to the CERD committee so that a productive dialogue can ensue,” said Bhatnagar.
A copy of the ACLU’s preliminary analysis of the CERD report can be found online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/30079pub20070612.html
More information on the ACLU’s Human Rights Program is available on line at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/index.html