October 23, 2017
As the Deadline Looms for U.S. Report to the UN on Racial Discrimination, Du Bois’ “Appeal to the World” Remains Pertinent to the Contemporary Fight for Racial Equality
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On this day seventy years ago, the NAACP submitted a petition, “An Appeal to the World” edited by W.E.B. Du Bois to the United Nations to address the denial of human rights to African Americans in the United States. Our organizations commemorate the 70th anniversary of this historic document and affirm our commitment to the goals of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the significance of the upcoming U.N. review of United States’ record on ending racism and racial discrimination in the United States.
The ICERD is the principal human rights treaty designed to protect individuals and groups from discrimination based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin, whether the discrimination is intentional or the result of seemingly neutral policies. After the last U.N. review in 2014, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which monitors compliance with ICERD, issued Concluding Observations expressing concerns over prevalent racial discrimination in the United States that Du Bois first voiced in 1947.
Among other observations, the Committee expressed concern over, but not limited to: 1) the practice of racial profiling of and police violence against racial and ethnic minorities, 2) lack of equal access to quality education and the ongoing segregation in schools, 3) the unfairly and disproportionately use of discipline in schools based on race, including more frequent referral to the criminal justice system of racial and ethnic minorities , and 4) the ongoing weakening of the Voting Rights Act and the obstacles to the vote such as restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering and felony disfranchisement laws.
The United States ratified the ICERD in 1994 and is obligated to uphold and promote the human rights protections detailed in the treaty, including in the areas of education, housing, criminal justice, health, voting, labor, access to justice, and more. The deadline for the Trump administration to submit its report to the U.N. CERD committee is November 17, 2017. Civil and human rights groups in the United States urge the Trump administration to submit a comprehensive report, which thoroughly reviews both U.S. progress and setbacks in implementing the ICERD and 2014 Concluding Observations on the federal, state and local levels. The CERD periodic review process is the world’s answer to W.E.B. DuBois’ Appeal and the U.S. still has a long way to go to address structural discrimination and the inequities DuBois detailed in his historic appeal.
Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: Seventy years ago, W.E.B. DuBois spearheaded an Appeal to the World that detailed the discrimination faced by racial minorities in the United States. Today, the fight against discrimination is ongoing as many fear the country is heading in the wrong direction. The review of U.S. compliance with the CERD treaty offers an opportunity for both reflection and action. We must continue to move our nation towards the ideals of democracy and work to be the exemplar for all democracies across the globe.
Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO: “We request that the American government pay heed to the racial injustices that Du Bois and his NAACP colleagues exposed seventy years ago. Du Bois’ warning, that a ‘great nation, which today ought to be in the forefront of the march toward peace and democracy, finds itself continuously making common cause with race hate,’ rings all too true today. America’s greatness can only be realized if it models integrity and inclusivity and is willing to confront the inequities that still persist within its democracy and society.”
Jamil Dakwar, Director of ACLU Human Rights Program: “We continue to be inspired by DuBois’ vision and actions of holding the United States internationally accountable for failure to end structural racism and racial discrimination. Today, we are especially concerned about the rise of white supremacy, racism, and xenophobia. We are also troubled by federal government statements and actions such as rollback of civil rights enforcement efforts since January 2017 that will only widen existing racial disparities. The world is and will continue to be watching and we will not rest until DuBois’ vision for racial equality is fully realized.”
Colette Pichon Battle, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network: “Now more than ever we must heed the appeal of Dr. W.E.B Dubois and connect the human rights movement in the US to the struggle for justice across the global south. What was true 70 years ago holds true today, we must support the voice and follow the vision of those most directly impacted if we are to see long-term change for a better America.”
ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS:
LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW: The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.
NAACP: Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas by visiting www.NAACP.org.
ACLU: The ACLU is a nationwide, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with offices in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. and more than one million members. For nearly a century, the ACLU has been working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.
US HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK: The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is a national network of organizations and individuals working to strengthen a human rights movement and culture within the United States led by the people most directly impacted by human rights violations. It is a network of over 300 organizational members that is working to popularize human rights in communities across the United States in order to secure dignity and justice for all. www.ushrnetwork.org