Racism in the United States is earning international condemnation

Violence in Charlottesville and a pattern of human rights abuses are sparking concern abroad.

Howard University students pray near the site where Heather Heyer was killed when a driver rammed a car into a crowd of demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Howard University students pray near the site where Heather Heyer was killed when a driver rammed a car into a crowd of demonstrators in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

A U.N. Human Rights Council committee issued a terse “early warning” to the United States over police violence and racial discrimination on Monday.

In a statement that also slammed the United States on issues like the death penalty and ongoing use of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility, the council called attention to events like the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia nearly two weeks ago. A woman was killed when an alleged Nazi sympathizer drove into a crowd of counter-protesters as the rally spiraled into violence. President Donald Trump came under harsh criticism for his accusations that “many sides” were responsible for the events, as well as his failure to condemn white supremacy.

Now, those actions have cued an official international warning.

“We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred,” said Anastasia Crickley, president of the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).


Warnings like the one issued Monday are intended to prevent “existing problems from escalating into conflict,” allowing for lawmakers and other officials to work quickly against alarming trends. Crickley notably encouraged U.S. leaders “to address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations” and for “the government of the United States of America, as well as high-level politicians and public officials, to unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country.”

Pakistani Ambassador to the U.N. Zamir Akram voiced “serious concerns about the human rights situation” in the United States, a sentiment that was echoed by numerous countries, including Russia and China.

Monday’s admonishment is not the first time the United Nations has criticized the United States over racism. In 2016, a report from the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent warned that “racial terrorism” against Black people in the United States was escalating at an alarming rate.

“Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching,” said the report, which also recommended reparations. That conclusion came after police killings of Black men received an uptick in media coverage. The murders of Terrence Crutcher, 40,  and Keith Scott, 43, were only a few of multiple tragedies dominating headlines and sparking international concern.


The U.N.’s statement on Monday sounded a similar warning with renewed urgency. Several member states raised other concerns relating to the United States throughout the meeting, referencing ongoing sexual violence against Native Americans, as well as the Trump administration’s decision to re-instate the “global gag rule” which blocks U.S. funding for organizations providing international family planning assistance.

The warning is only the latest in a string of critiques aimed at U.S. patterns and policies. In May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a travel warning for the state of Texas over draconian anti-immigration legislation, following in the steps of the Mexican government, who advised its citizens against travel to Arizona in 2010 over similar legislation. In early August, the NAACP also warned against travel to the state of Missouri—cautioning people of color and other minorities that the state’s policies and history of discrimination were a danger to marginalized communities. Last year, the Bahamas, a majority Black country, also warned citizens to take precautions when traveling to the United States.