Introduction by Gerald Horne (Human Rights in the United States: 2023 Report)

Source: Monthly Review

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 (CRC) – 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 the 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 by the National Conference of Black Lawyers, which sought to do so in the 1970s.

Their campaign is similarly worthy. Their focus on voter suppression is reminiscent of the original CRC Petition. Likewise, their targeting the death penalty recalls a time when even more languished on death row than there are today.

Their focus on anti-Asian violence in the U.S. forces us to recall that in 1945 U.S. imperialism for the first – and it is to be hoped the only – time in world history committed the most profound episode of mass murder in world history: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, massacring within minutes tens of thousands of people of Asian ancestry – the latter factor being not coincidental. Their focus on police terror also evokes the naked white supremacy emblematic of U.S. imperialism.

This malignant phenomenon infects – like a virus – every aspect of U.S. life, be it housing or employment or immigration or education or health care or foreign policy.

This Human Rights Report is thus more than welcome and, it is to be hoped, will have a similar impact as the 1951 effort, which led directly to the erosion of a hateful Jim Crow.

This article is part of a series in AFGJ’s Human Rights in the United States: 2023 Report