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U.S. continues to struggle with race disparities

By Freddie Allen/NNPA Washington Correspondent
On September 1, 2014
Wade Henderson

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the he Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights talks
about the 2014 Voting Rights Amendment Act at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Credit: Fredde Allen/NNPA

WASHINGTON – Twenty years after signing the “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” the United States continues to struggle with racial disparities in every major sector of American society.

A coalition of American civil and human rights groups, submitted a report titled, “Falling Further Behind: Combating Racial Discrimination in America,” to the Committee on Ending Racial Discrimination (CERD) that governs the international convention. The report detailed myriad disparities that still exist in the criminal justice system, education, voting, housing and immigration.

CERD is an independent panel of experts “that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its state parties,” according to the website for the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Countries that ratify the CERD treaty must review federal, state and local laws and revise or repeal policies that perpetuate racial discrimination.

The shooting death of another unarmed Black teenager by a police officer, this time in Ferguson, Mo., has garnered international interest, including the attention of CERD that met recently in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The death of Michael Brown, has not only shocked the conscience of the nation, it has shocked the conscience of the world,” said Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 organizations devoted to the promotion and protection of civil and human rights.

Henderson, former Washington bureau director of the NAACP, said that the Justice Department should review and prosecute, where appropriate, the cases in which law enforcement used excessive force and deadly force against unarmed individuals and suggested cutting federal funding to state and local law enforcement agencies that continue to violate civil and human rights of the people that they have sworn to protect.

“The world is watching the United States’ response to these tragedies and we must take swift action to release new federal guidance that will prohibit the use of racial ethnic and religious profiling by law enforcement,” said Henderson. “The Department of Justice should review and prosecute where appropriate the cases, in which law enforcement used excessive force and deadly force against unarmed individuals and when appropriate cut federal funding to state and local law enforcement agencies that continue to violate these principals.”

Henderson added: “By taking the necessary steps to address these issues we can and must halt this terrible trend.”

Henderson said that the United States ratified the international treaty in 1994 and joined the world community in its obligation under the treaty to take steps to reduce racial discrimination and disparities within our borders.

Despite the progress that has been made since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the U.S. seems at times to be losing ground, especially when it comes to the criminal justice system.

“Discrimination and racial disparities persist at every stage of the U.S. criminal justice system, from policing to trial to sentencing,” stated the report. “The United States is the world’s leading jailer with 2.2 million people behind bars. Perhaps no single factor has contributed more to racial disparities in the criminal justice system than the ‘War on Drugs.’”

The report said that “stand your ground” laws on the books in 22 states have exacerbated the discriminatory treatment toward suspects of color.

“For example, a recent study by the Urban Institute found substantial evidence of racial disparities in justifiable homicide outcomes of cross-race homicides nationwide. A key finding was that Whites who kill Blacks in “stand your ground” states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings,” stated the report.

According to the report, “In one study of Florida students, 39 percent of all Black students were suspended at least once, compared with only 22 percent of White students. This remains true regardless of age or grade. For example, in 2011, in one prekindergarten and kindergarten school in Louisiana, Black students comprised every single out-of-school suspension and half of all in-school suspensions, despite constituting only 26.5 percent of all students.”

The Education Department found that “Black children represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.”

Henderson said, “There is clearly something wrong in our system with results like that.”

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