U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Demands To Confront Racism

According to the New York Times, on Monday, June 28th, 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet implored countries to take action towards systemic racism meted out towards Black people, a sentiment she expressed just as she released a report calling for changes in policing as well as reparations. She said in a statement that, “The status quo is untenable. There is today a momentous opportunity to achieve a turning point for racial equality and justice.”

According to CNN, the United Nations Human Rights commissioner is calling on the United States to reform its criminal justice system by reimagining policing across the country as well as providing reparations. Bachelet urged the US to make change, saying, “I am calling on all states to stop denying, and start dismantling racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress.”

As reported by the New York Times, work on the 20-page report and its accompanying 95-page conference paper began soon after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. The release of the report comes only a few days after Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered Floyd, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.

The United Nations Human Rights Office, which prepared the report on racism, recommends the creation of a commission or a similar type of body with a one or two-year mandate to scrutinize law enforcement. The report examines the deaths of 190 Black people who have died at the hands of police or other law enforcement officers, the majority of them in the U.S. The report brings to light seven cases of police brutality, such as those in the United States where George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were victims, as well as several other cases from France, Brazil, and Colombia.

Not to mention, the report specifies that reparations to Black people is an imperative step to addressing the brutalization that they have endured from slavery and colonialism. As stated in the report, reparations “should not only be equated with financial compensation.” The report stated that reparations must include formal acknowledgement of the trauma inflicted, apologies, educational reform, and measures to commemorate the experience and legacy of Black people.

According to Al Jazeera, Treva Lindsey, a scholar on the Black Lives Matter movement in Ohio, commented on the report saying that she is “pleasantly encouraged by the naming of systemic global-level racism and systemic racism that needs to be addressed.” While addressing the importance of reparations, Lindsey stressed, “I think financial compensation is a very important and integral part of reparative structures, but we also have to talk about the systems that remain in place that are part of… global white supremacy.”

As reported by CNN, Attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of several victims of police brutality, including George Floyd, backed the commissioner’s report, in part saying that he hopes “that the Biden administration and Congress will work with us and the United Nations to create the systemic change our country needs.” In response to the U.N. report, the U.S. State Department said that it supports “the amplification of victims’ voices, as well as those of their families and communities in all countries,” while also recognizing that the United States has not always done so, especially in regards to its treatment of Black people.