February 19, 2008
This afternoon, American NGOs had the first opportunity to present to members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
. Representatives covered a broad array of issues arising from a range of geographical areas. Although the concerns addressed varied widely, all of them presented a stark contrast to the United States' claims of a network of legal protections administered by law enforcement at all levels of government all operating to the benefit of all American people.
Some advocates testified about the ways that those responsible for enforcing laws all too often are sources of fear. Individuals testified about the ways that police and border control agents beat and sexually abuse of women of color and immigrants; about the ways that police officers assigned to schools in New York City and elsewhere in the United States harass and abuse the students they are supposed to protect; how women of color, particularly tribal women, who report physical abuse have their complaints ignored or, worse, are subjected to physical abuse by law enforcement agents; how foster children, mostly children of color, are denied the opportunity to see and build relationships with incarcerated mothers and how incarcerated women face the indignity of giving birth while shackled to their beds.
In some cases, such as the treatment of African-Americans in post-Katrina New Orleans, strategic neglect has been added to mistreatment. Advocates recounted the persistence of police checkpoints in African-American neighborhoods, continued police violence toward people of color, and the disproportionate efforts to rebuild wealthy white neighborhoods while poorer communities of color are permitted to languish with their problems unaddressed and no plans in place to revitalize those communities or create viable housing for their residents.
The testimony, though lasting only an hour, suggested widespread patterns of systemic discrimination on the basis of race, gender, immigration status, ethnicity, and gender identity too extensive to describe here. Although the testimony precluded time for questioning by the panel, its members promised to return to the subject of the testimony at convening later this week. All of the advocates, who represent a dizzying array of NGOs, are hopeful that the testimony is a meaningful step in the effort to convey the persistence of racial injustice in the United States.