During a recent visit to the United States, a United Nations (UN) working group has said that the US should consider giving long overdue reparations to descendants of slaves. The group also suggests the US government establish a national human rights commission, and publicly acknowledge that the Transatlantic Slave Trade was a crime against humanity.
The UN working group, called “Experts on People of African Descent,” went on a fact-finding mission, which included meetings with African-Americans from multiple cities, including Baltimore, New York, and Chicago. Although they won’t release their full report until September, each member read a statement to the press. The group stated that they are “extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African Americans.” At a press conference, Chairwoman Mireille Fanon Mendes-France compared police brutality against the black community to Jim Crow-era racial violence:
“The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the US remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent. Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynchings in the past. Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Some members expressed shock at the revelations they experienced during their trip.
“It’s very easy in the United States for African Americans to be imprisoned, and that was very concerning,” said South African Sabelo Gumedze, a member of the United Nations group.
The group also said they find the lack of a “national system to track killings committed by law enforcement officials” unacceptable. They also noted that despite initiatives to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing, the war on drugs has “led to mass incarceration that is compared to enslavement, due to exploitation and dehumanization of African-Americans.” The group even spoke about the school to prison pipeline, and how it recreates the current situation that African-Americans are in.
The real question is whether the US government will even consider these recommendations. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both opposed reparations in the past. Even democratic socialist Bernie Sanders called reparations “divisive,” and instead suggests that the government improve infrastructure to create jobs in poor areas, and make public colleges and universities tuition-free.
If the current president, and every presidential candidate is in opposition to reparations, it’s unlikely we will see many politicians jump in and support this cause. The same UN group also visited the US in 2010, and came to similar conclusions.
The group will release their final findings this September in Geneva, Switzerland to the United Nations Human Rights Council.