Human Rights in the U.S. 2022 Report

Preface from Comité Cerezo México

Source: Comité Cerezo México

To all the compañeros and compañeras that work or collaborate with the Alliance for Global Justice

Mexico City, April 12, 2022

Sending you a fraternal salute from every one of us that belong to the Comité Cerezo México, an organization that for more than 20 years has protected and promoted the defense of human rights.

Firstly, we would like to congratulate you for presenting your report on the human rights situation in the United States. We’d also like to share that it has been an honor to have been able to contribute in some manner to this publication.

For many years, the lives of millions of people across Latin America have been impacted by injustice and by the political repression and counterinsurgency policy promoted by the United States government. In the concept of human rights and specifically in the documentation of human rights violations, the people have found a tool to arrive at the truth about those responsible for policies that violate human rights, their objectives and beneficiaries; a tool to struggle for justice, for the integral reparation of damage, and to maintain alive the memory of the peoples’ struggles for their liberation from the yoke of Capital.

Wherever human rights violations exist, the documentation of those violations is a useful tool, even in the very bowels of the main exponent of imperialism in our times: the United States. A country as big and powerful as the blood, life, and labor of the working class and the peasant class upon whom it was erected still stands as a hegemonic force in the world.

It is of critical importance that the people of the United States of America come to know and utilize human rights as a tool for popular struggle. It was a pleasure for us to share our knowledge of this subject and we celebrate that AFGJ will launch its Human Rights School initiative in the U.S. this year. We think that knowing and mastering this tool is not an end unto itself, but fundamentally a means to achieving a dignified life for peoples all over the world.

In closing, we want to express that what we know and share about the subject of human rights is a result of the long struggle and theoretical development of Latin American peoples. Fundamentally, we are nurtured by all struggles, and if we have contributed anything, it’s all been due to the need and persistence of the struggle for the peoples’ dignity. Today, we must also learn from the heroic people of the United States with whom who we are united in our diverse histories of resistance and dreams of truth, justice, memory, and the integral reparation of damage.

Comité Cerezo México

Introduction from Gerald Horne

By Gerald Horne, historian and scholar of African American Studies

“On 17 December 1951, Black Communist attorney and activist, William L. Patterson, delivered the ‘We Charge Genocide’ Petition to the United Nations in Paris. Ten days later, the U.S. government moved to invalidate his passport.

This searing document, still worth reading and birthed in no small measure by Patterson’s comrade, Paul Robeson — the great artist and activist, the ‘tallest tree in our forest’ — was the product of a mass worldwide organizing campaign by their organization — the Civil Rights Congress — whose efforts were so intimidating to Washington that they were driven out of business by 1956.

Today the Alliance for Global Justice is not only walking in the gigantic footprints of CRC but also extending the call by Malcolm X before his tragic assassination in 1965 to internationalize the human rights struggle in the U.S. and the National Conference of Black Lawyers, which sought to do so in the 1970s.” (Read more)

Chapter 1: A nation deeply divided: racial inequality and white supremacy

Slavery in the U.S. was once called “the peculiar institution” but few things are more peculiar than the racism and white supremacy that prompted and fueled the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow, and today’s spectacularly peculiar climate of racial animus that characterizes life in modern-day USA. This chapter analyzes several different iterations of racial bias and white supremacy in the U.S. today:

Together these articles illustrate the foundational roles of racial inequality and white supremacy in the United States. They identify collective human rights violations recognized by the international community and analyze their common underpinnings. They highlight the intersections between the economic, political and social systems at the basis of every aspect of U.S life. They explain how race is the driving force in widespread human rights violations, even when race is not specifically mentioned in the laws and policies that created and maintain these conditions.

Violations of international human rights treaties & declarations

Identified violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

  • Article 1: that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights 
  • Article 2: that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race 
  • Article 3: that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security
  • Article 4: that no one should be held in slavery or servitude
  • Article 5: that no one should be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  • Article 7: that all are equal before the law and entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law
  • Article 10: that everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing in the determination of their civil rights and obligations
  • Article 11: that everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  • Article 17: that everyone has the right to own property, and no one should be deprived of their property
  • Article 21: that everyone has the right to equal access to public service
  • Article 23: that everyone has the right to employment, equal pay and economic conditions sufficient for a dignified existence
  • Article 25: that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and social services
  • Article 26: that everyone has the right to an education and the full realization of their human development

Article 4 of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination requires that countries “revise governmental and other public policies [and] rescind laws and regulations which have the effect of creating and perpetuating racial discrimination” and pass legislation for “prohibiting such discrimination,” particularly those that relate to the rights to education, employment, occupation and housing.

Chapter 2: Beyond the pandemic: a public health crisis

Coming soon

Chapter 3: Climate crisis & the struggle for environmental justice

Coming soon

Chapter 4: A new wave of labor exploitation and repression of workers’ rights

The organized labor movement in the U.S. has been targeted in every way since its inception. Today, the movement is small (comprising just 10% of the total workforce), it’s frayed, and has faced insurmountable pushback from corporations. There are many reasons why unions have struggled to stay afloat. Organizing workers doesn’t come naturally or easily when operating within the confines of the U.S. repressive apparatus. However, things are changing. As extreme economic inequality continues to build, so has the recognition among working people that unions, and union organizing, provide a safety net and protection from human rights violations against in and outside of the workplace.

Throughout 2021, strikes and campaigns for unions spread fervently across the U.S. If 2021 taught workers anything, it’s that the labor market as it operates does not work to their advantage – that the so-called free market will never work to their advantage as long as profit-making and the exploitation it necessitates remains foundational to economic production. The confluence of late capitalism and COVID-19 magnified issues already well on their way, chiefly the hyper-exploitation of blue collar essential workers and the gig economy labor force by mega corporations that cashed in on the pandemic. This chapter analyzes emblematic case studies of present-day labor struggles and the movement to advance workers’ human rights in the U.S.: 

Big businesses know they’re in violation of the rights inherent to all humans and workers. The rights owed to workers are unrecognizable in today’s workforce. The ongoing, systemic and far-reaching violations of workers’ rights attests to the foundational role of class oppression in most human rights violations. It brings to the forefront the struggle for collective liberation and the importance of building a stronger and more unified labor force capable of transforming class relations in the U.S.

Violations of international human rights treaties & declarations

Identified violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

  • Article 22: that everyone has the right to social security and the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable to their dignity and the full realization of their human development
  • Article 23: that everyone has the right to employment, equal pay and economic conditions sufficient for a dignified existence
  • Article 24: that everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including the reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is a multilateral treaty signed in 1990 and entered into force in 2003. The treaty has 39 signatories and has been ratified by 20 states, most in the Global South; the United States (along with most countries in the Global North) isn’t one of them. Given that migrant workers comprise an increasingly significant portion of the U.S. labor force and the informal economy, the treaty bears increasing relevance to U.S. economic policy and should be ratified by the United States government.

Chapter 5: Overwhelming marginalization: the struggle for disability rights

Approximately 40.7 million people in the United States and more than one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, lead self-affirming lives and define themselves above and beyond what others may term their disability. In fact, the term “disability” is laden with factual, prejudicial, and emotional baggage that serves to further marginalize the people to whom it is applied. Regardless of the stigma and alienation they face, people who are differently abled share the same human rights as everyone else.

Since the mid-1900s, people with disabilities have pushed for their basic human rights. These include the recognition of disability or divergence as an aspect of identity that influences the experiences of an individual, not as the sole-defining feature of a person. It also includes their rights to education, housing, employment, medical care, and accommodations in both the public and private spheres. 

The ongoing struggle for social, cultural, economic and political rights in the disabled community reflects the blatant and systemic disregard for human life that permeates U.S. policies and institutions and violates the most foundational tenet of human rights: that all are born free and equal. The systemic exclusion and oppression of disabled people in capitalist societies such as the U.S. is compounded by its foundations in white supremacist, patriarchal and classist constructions of genetic superiority weaponized to dehumanize entire groups of people and legitimize their oppression. That once-called “social darwinist” ideology came back into mainstream acceptance around the late 19th century with the birth of the eugenics movement in the U.S. and its special targeting of people with disabilities. 

It should come as no surprise that many differently abled people remain more likely to experience adverse economic outcomes, prejudice and discrimination; and for people who are already marginalized by their race, gender, ethnicity, or poverty, being different than others diminishes their opportunities to live life to its fullest. The law allows them to be paid less than minimum wage, while their employers reap the benefits of what amounts to slave labor. This chapter examines the overwhelming marginalization that characterizes the struggle for disability rights in the U.S.:

  • Speaking of disability introduces readers to the lived experiences of people with disabilities under capitalism as “a daily confrontation with society and its prejudices.”
  • Disability rights and human rights — they affect ALL of us explores the intersectional struggles of people with disabilities against systemic human rights violations compounded by race, class, homelessness, police violence and mass incarceration.

It is high time that we recognize the many strengths and talents that come from thinking and perceiving the world differently, or living with physical, developmental, or psychosocial conditions that set some people apart from their peers. By defending our kinfolk who function differently and joining them in demanding their full and unqualified rights as human beings, we can begin the seismic shift of changing the way differently abled people are perceived and support and empower them to achieve their potential by removing barriers to their success.

Violations of international human rights treaties & declarations

Identified violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

  • Article 1: that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights 
  • Article 2: that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as disability 
  • Article 3: that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security
  • Article 22: that everyone has the right to social security and the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable to their dignity and the full realization of their human development
  • Article 23: that everyone has the right to employment, equal pay and economic conditions sufficient for a dignified existence
  • Article 25: that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and social services
  • Article 26: that everyone has the right to an education and the full realization of their human development
  • Article 27: that everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancements and its benefits; and that everyone has the right to protection of moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which they are the author

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was convened in 2006 and opened for signatures in 2007. It is known as the “first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century” and currently has 198 signatories. The United States was not among its initial signatories and did not sign the treaty until 2009. The treaty includes an optional protocol for the acceptance of individual complaints procedures that the U.S. has not adopted. Despite the United States’ status as a signatory of the treaty, conditions of disabled people in the U.S. continue to fall far below the standards established by the treaty with no accountability procedure in place to contest violations of disability rights.

Chapter 6: Political targeting & the militant repression of social movements

Political repression is the act of a state entity controlling people by force for political reasons, particularly for the purpose of restricting or preventing such people’s ability to take part in the political life of a society. This reduces their standing compared to others in their community and the world. Political repression is often manifested through policies such as surveillance abuse, police brutality, imprisonment, involuntary settlement, lustration and violent action or terror such as the murder, summary executions, torture, forced disappearances and other extrajudicial punishment of political activists, dissidents, or general population, and stripping of civil and/or human rights. Political repression can also be reinforced by means outside of written policy, such as by public and private media ownership and by self-censorship within the public.

By now you’ll have noticed a common thread in our accounting of human rights violations; namely, that they are most often suffered by Black, Indigenous, Brown, and other communities of color. This is because racist and political repression go hand-in-hand as weapons of the fundamentally racist and oppressive status quo. The U.S. currently has dozens of political prisoners, the majority of whom are Black, Brown, or Indigenous. 

We make the claim that racism remains the driving force in political imprisonment and other forms of repression in the U.S. This has become strikingly evident since the summer of 2020, when the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor triggered a surge in mass resistance to racism and state violence met with militant political repression. Hyper-criminalization of protests, militarization of police forces, mass politically-motivated arrests and detentions, a spike in police murders, impunity for right wing terrorism and paramilitary violence and bolstered counter-intelligence has brought in a new wave of political targeting of anti-racist activists. Despite having identified white supremacists as the deadliest terrorist threat in the U.S., federal law enforcement continues to focus its anti-terrorism training, infrastructure and operations on so-called “Black identity extremists.”

We also recognize that the violent repression we witness today involves the same acts of violence used by the Department of Homeland Security against refugees and asylum seekers fleeing imperialist violence in their home countries. The “marine corps of the U.S. law enforcement community,” the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), was among the federal law enforcement agencies mobilized to surveil and intimidate protesters during the Black Lives Matter uprising of 2020. Like other agencies under the banner of “homeland security,” BORTAC was inspired by the historical practices designed and exported by the State Department through its notorious School of the Americas (now the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation – WHINSEC), a site of inter-continental training in sophisticated tactics of state terrorism and repression deployed to crush leftist movements for the installation of right-wing regimes at the service of U.S. hemispheric hegemony. We recognize that the U.S. Empire — a term Noam Chomsky has described to define an “integrated policy of U.S. military and economic supremacy” — remains the greatest systemic perpetrator of human rights violations within and beyond its own borders.

This chapter examines the prominence and many forms of political repression in the U.S. today and its international applications:

Violations of international human rights treaties & declarations

Violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Article 2: that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race 
  • Article 3: that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security
  • Article 6: that everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law
  • Article 7: that all are equal before the law and entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law
  • Article 9: that no one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
  • Article 10: that everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing in the determination of their civil rights and obligations
  • Article 11: that everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  • Article 12: that no one should be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor attacks upon their honor or reputation, and that everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks
  • Article 13: that everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of their state
  • Article 19: that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
  • Article 20: that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and that no one may be compelled to belong to an association
  • Article 21: that everyone has the right to the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives; that everyone has the right to equal access to public services in their country; and that the will of the people should be the basis of the authority of government as expressed through periodic elections and universal, equal suffrage
  • Article 27: that everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancements and its benefits
  • Article 30: that nothing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be interpreted as implying for the State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of the human rights it stipulates

Chapter 7: Border militarization & the criminalization of migration

Coming soon!

Conclusion from Margaret Kimberley

Source: Kay Hickman Photography

By Margaret Kimberley, Executive Editor and Senior Columnist (Black Agenda Report)

The words human rights are used quite frequently but conditions around the world prove that they are rarely taken seriously. The United States, which claims to be a protector of human rights, has more people imprisoned, some two million, than any other country on earth. Yet it routinely accuses other nations that won’t bend to its will of being human rights abusers. The term has become a weapon of coercion, a means of intimidation. So much so that it will lose all meaning unless those of us who are serious about protecting human rights take up the charge.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a good starting point to determine when and how human rights should be respected and protected. The UDHR confirms that human beings have the right to life and liberty, fair trials, the presumption of innocence, freedom of thought and opinion, living wage work, housing, healthcare, and free education. It condemns arbitrary detention, torture, and any form of discrimination. The U.S. doesn’t do well by any of these metrics. It doesn’t support the rights of its own citizens and routinely deprives others of what it claims to lift up.” (Read more)

This report is part of a popular education initiative of Alliance for Global Justice

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 email: humanrightsreports@afgj.org | phone: (202) 540-8336 ext. 603

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