The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo 
Secretary of State 
U.S. Department of State 
2201 C Street NW 
Washington, DC 20520 

Re: Invitation to UN Special Rapporteur on Racism 

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write to urge you to extend an invitation to Professor E. Tendayi Achiume, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (“Special Rapporteur on Racism”), to conduct an official fact-finding visit to examine the historic and present marks of racism and racial discrimination that have presented new and renewed, alarming trends of racism in the United States. With this letter we bring an opportunity for us to work together during this Quad-Centennial of the arrival of African peoples from Angola to the USA in 1619.

As you may be aware, the last Special Rapporteur on Racism visit to the United States was in 2008 at the invitation of the George W. Bush administration. That timely visit enjoyed bi-partisan support. In his report to the Human Rights Council, Mr. Doudou Diène, then the Special Rapporteur noted:

Racism and racial discrimination have profoundly and lastingly marked and structured American society. The U.S. has made decisive progress. However, the historical, cultural and human depth of racism still permeates all dimensions of life and American society.

Mr. Diène made a list of recommendations to the federal, state and local governments urging them to double their efforts to fight racism and racial discrimination.[1] Many of his recommendations were echoed by several other regional and international human rights bodies who reviewed the United States record on combatting racism, including the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,[2] the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent,[3] the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights,[4] as well as the 2010 and 2014 Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) of the United States.[5]

While the United States’ periodic report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has yet to be submitted—16 months past the deadline—the U.S. expressed its commitment “to fighting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” in a statement made before the United Nations Third Committee of the General Assembly last November. A U.S. Representative assured other countries that the United States “continues to implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.”[6] Furthermore, the United States has conveyed the importance of engaging with international human rights bodies to denounce and fight against racism:

“We work with civil society, international mechanisms, and all nations of goodwill to combat racism and racial discrimination. It is an integral aspect of our aspiration to ‘build a more perfect union.’”

The U.S. has also expressed its support of the current International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), which calls for reparatory justice through the national, regional, and international legal frameworks for generations of involuntary servitude, socioeconomic subjugation, and racial discrimination.

While we appreciate the U.S.’s stated commitment to fighting racism, we believe that commitment ought to manifest itself in tangible actions rather than only words. We are deeply concerned by credible reports indicating a frightening resurgence in white supremacy, which has led to a rise in racism and hate crimes against racial, ethnic, and religious minority communities both in the US and abroad as evidenced by the recent horrific and unspeakable mass murder in New Zealand. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2018 annual report on hate and extremism in the United States, there has been “a 30 percent increase in U.S. hate groups over the past four years and a 7 percent increase in hate groups in 2018 alone.”[7]

We are equally concerned about the rise of misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and anti-immigrant sentiments which have continued to escalate across the United States since the last U.S. presidential election. A May 2018 report released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino found that incidents of hate crimes reached the “highest level in more than a decade” in the largest cities in the United States.[8] A recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Contemporary Civil Rights Challenges: A View from the States, affirms that across the country lack of enforcement of civil rights protections on the basis of race and color are a significant concern.[9]

An official visit by the Special Rapporteur on Racism to the United States during this timely season will give her an opportunity to gather information, meet with officials and civil society organizations and directly impacted communities, and offer an assessment and recommendations for effectively fighting the deeply rooted issues of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of xenophobia and bigotry in the United States.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact:

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Associate General Secretary for Action and Advocacy at the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA at aundreia.alexander@nationalcouncilofchurches.us or at 202-481-6928 or Mr. Jamil Dakwar, Director of the Human Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union either at jdakwar@aclu.org or at 212-519-7850

We thank you in advance for your attention to this letter.

Sincerely,

A Just Future 
African American Ministers In Action 
Albany Law School 
Alliance of Baptists 
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee 
Amnesty International USA 
Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative 
Bread for the World 
Campaign for Youth Justice 
Cardozo Law Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic 
Center for Reproductive Rights 
Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry 
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church 
Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy 
College and Community Fellowship 
Coloradans For Immigrant Rights 
Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute 
Conference of National Black Churches 
Conference of Superiors of Men (Catholic) 
Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces 
Defending Rights & Dissent 
Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ) 
Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice 
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 
Faith Voices Arkansas 
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR USA) 
Four Freedoms Forum 
Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop 
Friends Committee on National Legislation 
Fund for Leadership, Equity, Access and Diversity 
General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church 
General Commission on Religion and Race, The United Methodist Church 
Higher Ground Change Strategies 
Human Rights Watch 
ICCC 
International CURE 
Jewish Council for Public Affairs 
Justice Roundtable 
Justice Strategies 
Lott Carey Global Missions Society 
Malcolm X Center for Self Determination 
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office 
Million Hoodies Movement for Justice 
Mommieactivist and Sons 
Moravian Church Northern Province 
Mountain View Friends Meeting 
NAACP 
National Action Network 
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd 
National Council of Churches 
National Jericho Movement 
National Juvenile Justice Network 
National LGBTQ Task Force 
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice 
Pan African Women's Ecumenical Empowerment Network (PAWEEN) 
Pax Christi USA 
Poverty & Race Research Action Council Presbyterian Church (USA) 
Racial Justice NOW! 
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conferernce 
Santa Clara Law - International Human Rights Clinic 
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law 
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Institute Justice Team 
Social Justice Action of St. Boniface Church 
Southern Poverty Law Center 
Students for Sensible Drug Policy 
Sunny Slaughter Consulting, LLC 
Swedenborgian Church of North America 
The Advocates for Human Rights 
The Daniel Initiative 
The Franklin Law Group, P.C. 
The Law Firm of Miccio McDaniel & Pelosi 
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights 
The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law 
The Sentencing Project 
The Shalom Center 
The Taifa Group 
Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University Law School 
Transformative Justice Coalition 
Union for Reform Judaism 
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries 
US Human Rights Network 
Women’s All Points Bulletin, WAPB 
Woodhull Freedom Foundation
YWCA USA

 


[1] Doudou Diène, Report Submitted By the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène, on his mission to the United States of America (April 28, 2009), available at http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/11/36/Add.3&Lang=E.  

[2]  Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding observations on the combined seventh to ninth periodic reports of the United States of America (Sept. 25, 2014), available at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/235644.pdf.  

[3] Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to the United States of America (Aug. 18, 2016), available at http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/33/61/Add.2.  

[4] See “Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Holds Hearings on Racism, U.S. Criminal Justice System, Social Protests in Mexico, the Internet, and Other Human Rights Issues,” International Justice Resource Center (Oct. 29, 2014), available at https://ijrcenter.org/2014/10/29/inter-american-commission-on-human-righ....  

[5] See “2011 Universal Periodic Review,” U.S. Department of State, available at https://www.state.gov/j/drl/upr/archive/index.htm; and “2014 Universal Periodic Review,” U.S. Department of State, available at https://www.state.gov/j/drl/upr/2015/index.htm.  

[6] See “Third Committee Approves 13 Drafts on Persons with Disabilities, Ageing, Human Trafficking amid Protracted Votes on Human Rights in Syria, Myanmar,” United Nations (Nov. 16, 2018), available at https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/gashc4254.doc.htm.  

[7] See Leila Fadel, “U.S. Hate Groups Rose 30 Percent In Recent Years, Watchdog Group Reports,” NPR (Feb. 20, 2019), available at https://www.npr.org/2019/02/20/696217158/u-s-hate-groups-rose-sharply-in....  

[8] See Abigail Hauslohner, “Hate crimes jump for fourth straight year in largest U.S. cities, study shows,” Washington Post (May 11, 2018), available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/05/11/hate-crime....