CERD: A Call for Immediate Activist Input
1994 the United States ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (CERD), an international treaty which commits nations
to promote racial understanding and eliminate racism in all its manifestations.
Originally approved by the U.N. in 1965, the CERD has now been ratified by 173
countries. The CERD treaty is notable for its scope and breadth.
treaty not only condemns intentional discrimination, but it also requires
states to review and amend practices or policies which may inadvertently
promote racial exclusion or racial segregation. In addition, it requires states
to take affirmative steps to promote racial understanding, including the use of
race-conscious measures when appropriate. As part of the monitoring process,
states are required to submit period reports to the U.N. Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination. After receiving the official state
report, the Committee then reviews shadow reports submitted by domestic
advocacy groups responding to the official state report.
a four year delay, the Bush Administration submitted its second official state
report in April 2007. In preparation for the Committee's review of compliance
by the U.S. with the Convention, the Kirwan Institute joined a coalition of
more than 250 civic groups and scholars coordinated by the U.S. Human Rights Network,
which submitted a joint shadow report detailing the persistence of racial
inequality and racial discrimination in the U.S.
February 22nd and 23rd of 2008, the CERD Committee examined the U.S. delegation
based upon the information in the Kirwan report and other shadow reports. Of
particular importance to the CERD committee was the way in which the U.S. had
not only failed to implement the CERD, but also how it demonstrated outright
rejection of affirmative, race-conscious measures to help remedy unjustifiable
racial disparities. The Committee called on the U.S. specifically to explain
its hostility to school integration in the recent Supreme Court Parents
Committee noted that compliance with CERD requires efforts like school integration
in order to achieve the goal of eliminating racial discrimination and that
Parents Involved amounted to defiance of the treaty. Thus, the shadow reports
gave Kirwan and other activist organizations a forum and an audience to express
what the U.S. did not wish to admit; racism exists beyond the intentional act
and within the interactions of private and public institutions, and the U.S.
government has an obligation to address racism in all of its forms. The U.S. is
required by CERD to eliminate racial discrimination in all forms and we must
continue to hold the government to this international obligation.
there is a gap between the ideal and inspirational and the cold hard reality of
the situation. Even with the election of a Democratic executive and legislative
branch, this nation is woefully behind on issues of race and racism. The
economic recession has hurt racial minorities more than whites, as does lack of
heath care, economic and racial isolation in schools, and ignoring race in favor
of color blind policies. Under the CERD, the United States would have to own up
to these disparities and eliminate them. Under current U.S. law, there is no
obligation to do so.
Senator Dick Durbin and the subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law announced
that they will be holding a hearing on U.S. treaty implementation on December
16th. It will be the first oversight hearing on human rights treaty
implementation since 1992 when the Senate ratified the ICCPR. Durban's committee will be accepting
written statements on the U.S.'s record on implementation and recommendations
to aid in creating a Congressional record on implementation practices.
could be a great opportunity to open Congress' eyes to 21st Century
discrimination, to the state's responsibility for creating policies and
practices that entrench and reproduce old forms of discrimination, and creating
so-called race blind policies that have disparate impact on minority
and activists should take this opportunity to make their voices heard on the
pressing need to implement CERD's mandate to eliminate all forms of
discrimination at this crucial turning point in American history.
are due by Dec. 14 and should be submitted to Heloisa Griggs,Counsel to U.S.
Senator Richard J. Durbin, at Heloisa_griggs@judiciary-dem.senate.gov.