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U.S. Statement on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance
September 29, 2015

Item 9 General Debate: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
UN Human Rights Council – 30th Session
September 28, 2015
As delivered by Gerard Hodel

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States recently lost a remarkable civil rights leader with the passing of Julian Bond.  Mr. Bond was a trailblazer in our country’s long fight for civil rights and equal justice.  His work, both with civil society organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and in government as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, inspired countless Americans to pursue equality, justice, and freedom.

Mr. Bond knew that we still have work to do.  Nine African Americans were murdered at a prominent black church in Charleston, South Carolina recently, allegedly by a man aiming to increase racial tensions.  This is horrifying.  Afterward, several state governments removed Confederate flags from capitol buildings and license plates, and merchants took those flags from their store shelves and online catalogs.

At the same time, in our open society, these powerful symbolic actions were met by other protests and rallies favoring the Confederate flag, even though many Americans see that flag as a symbol for racism and white supremacy.

Why does our country permit such speech?  Why not just pass laws that ban symbols of hatred and support for them?

The United States is founded on the principle that we cannot overcome intolerance by suppressing freedom of expression.  We will not change those who commit hate-fueled violence by driving them underground.  If we are able to overcome racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, it will be through painstaking efforts of education, collaboration, and respect for each other.

Across the country, American civil society pursues equality, justice, and freedom – sometimes with government.  For example, our Justice Department has created a Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance, which responds to requests from law enforcement for proactive, non-adversarial, and cost-effective technical assistance.  This past week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Florida, Louisiana, and Missouri to talk with Americans about discriminatory policing and use of excessive force. The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will visit the United States early next year.  We welcome the opportunity to address these important challenges.

The United States has made great progress towards to countering racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance, but much remains to be done.  We welcome the International Decade for People of African Descent as a way to promote recognition, justice, and development for all.  We will continue to work with partners to achieve those goals.

Thank you, Mr. President.