“There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States,” says renowned historian and author Howard Zinn in his classic A People’s History of The United States.
And he isn’t the only individual who has taken notice of the importance and toll racism and slavery have taken on our young country.
The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent announced its request for the United States to pay reparations to African-American descendants of slavery along with establishing a national human rights commission while publicly acknowledging that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity.
Epic Times reported that the U.N. group announced and released its preliminary recommendations after spending a week meeting with black Americans and others associated to the topic of slavery and race from around the United States. Some of the cities they visited include Chicago, New York City, the District of Columbia, and Jackson, Mississippi.
— Prudence Carter (@prudencelcarter) January 31, 2016
The Working Group’s chair, Mireille Fanon Mendes-France (who hails from France), stated that after their assessment and talks with individuals they met with, the group was “extremely concerned about the human rights situation of [U.S.] African-Americans.”
“The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the U.S. remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent.”
The statements can be somewhat alarming, especially to Americans, who feel focusing on our country’s distant errors and wanting us to reverse those errors take away from focusing on the realities we endure today.
The recent violence against unarmed black men and continued negligence towards the minority communities in the U.S. stroke a chord with the U.N. group as Mendes-France went on to compare the recent deaths of black males by the hand of police brutality to the lynchings of black men in the South.
“Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynchings in the past,” she told reporters. “Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
It’s interesting to note that not one individual from the group’s members was an American citizen, and most were “shocked” by the results gathered from the individuals they spoke with in regard to race and unfair treatment.
A member by the name of Ricardo A. Sunga III, who is from the Philippines, acknowledged that what stood out most for him during the group’s travels was “the lack of acknowledgement of the slave trade,”.
And by lack of acknowledgement, the group means the United States’ lack of monuments depicting the very true and discriminating events that many believe ignited this hateful epidemic against individuals of color that has since cast them as an inferior race.
To some, this notion is just absurd; the report from Epic Times even claimed the action unnecessary, stating that “in America every child is taught about the slave trade in middle school.” But then again, how true are the accounts found in our school’s history books — the same source that identifies Christopher Columbus solely as the founder of our beloved country, ignoring and disguising a story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress, in terms of our country’s discovery.
The U.N. group has since recommended that monuments, markers, and memorials of our history’s controversial past be erected in the country to build awareness and facilitate dialogue, stating, “past injustices and crimes against African-Americans need to be addressed with reparatory justice.”
According to reports, the group will go on to suggest several changes they believe the United States should consider in order to improve human rights for African-Americans, including the establishment of a national human rights commission, ratifying international human right treaties, asking Congress to study slavery and its aftereffects, and considering reparations.
The scars and fresh wounds of racism continue to affect our country’s perception of equality and human rights. So how did we get this way? Why is it that the appearance of an individual, the color of their skin, the manner in which they speak can affect the quality of life they endure in a country that was conveniently conceived off the notion “all men are created equal.” A statement we echo when distancing ourselves from the other countries in the world, but yet fail to fully grasp here on our own front steps.
While reparations might not be the answer we’re looking for in terms of correcting America’s current civil issues, informing our society, constructing memorials, and legitimately acknowledging our country’s past injustices, whose elements were and continue to stem from historical reason, not natural, allow for a possibility for something else under historical conditions not yet realized.
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)