UN Committee condemns U.S. for racial disparity, police brutality

BY Charles Pulliam-Moore  August 29, 2014 at 6:30 PM EDT

Demonstrators march against police brutality in San Francisco in 2013. Photo by Flickr user Steve Rhodes

Demonstrators march against police brutality in San Francisco in 2013. Photo by Flickr user Steve Rhodes

The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has published a scathing report analyzing the current state of racial justice in the United States. Citing the August 9th shooting of 18 year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and the rise of stand-your-ground laws, the committee expressed deep concerns about the ways in which the American justice system handles racially-charged events.

African Americans across the country, the CERD explained in a press conference, bear a disproportionate amount of the burden associated with economic and social disparity.

“This is not an isolated event and illustrates a bigger problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials.” said CERD vice chairman Noureddine Amir. “Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing.”

Despite denials from its mayor, Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb in which Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer, has been noted for the stark racial divide that exists between its residents and its public servants. As a whole 67% of Ferguson’s population is black and 29% is white, a stark contrast to Ferguson’s police department, which is 94% white. In 2013 blacks accounted for 86% of all traffic stops in Ferguson and were two times as likely to be searched compared to whites.

“[We remain] concerned at the practice of racial profiling of racial or ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials,” the committee wrote, “including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transportation Security Administration, border enforcement officials and local police.”

In addition to explicitly excessive police brutality, the report elaborated, pervasive forms of infrastructural discrimination posed significant threats to minority enfranchisement. Gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and racial profiling were called out specifically as examples of the American legal system being used to harm minority communities.