Debate on Racial Discrimination
Midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent
46th Session of the Human Rights Council
March 12, 2021
As Delivered by Charles Bentley
Panelists, thank you for your presentations on this important issue.
All across the world, including in the United States, we see young people raise their voices against the destructive legacy of racism. They have recognized that lack of access to jobs, education, healthcare, and opportunity does not happen in a vacuum. Last summer, as protesters of all races, ages, and backgrounds in the United States and around the world raised their voices against the–all–too frequent occurrence of Black lives ending at the hands of law enforcement, we were reminded, yet again, that we must do more to address systemic racism. What many people did not see, or simply refused to see, could not be ignored any longer. The promise of “liberty and justice for all” has not been achieved.
Young people have been at the frontline of this global movement against racism and racial discrimination. Now more than ever, we see that youth engagement and political participation are vital to addressing systemic racism, as well as other global challenges, including climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and authoritarian threats to democracy. It is essential that we commit to giving young people access to the political space and providing an enabling environment for them to be active citizens.
In his first weeks in office, President Biden established a whole-of-government process to assess and end systemic racism in government policy, programs, and institutions. He signed executive actions to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies and end the federal government’s use of private prisons, a first step towards addressing mass incarceration, which disproportionately impacts people of African descent and other people of color. He also extended a pause on repaying student loans during the pandemic, which represent a disproportionate economic burden for people of color. These actions support young Americans, who President Biden praised for “pulling us toward justice in so many ways.”
As we enter the second half of the International Decade for People of African Descent, the United States is committed to empowering and listening to youth voices as we work to ensure that equity and the fight against systemic racism drives policymaking.