UN Experts ‘Extremely Concerned’ About the State of African Americans in the US 

The findings by the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent covered a broad range of topics, including police brutality, mass incarceration and the school system. 

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The United Nations is once again tackling racism and the human rights of black people in America, detailing several concerns, from police brutality to mass incarceration to housing crises to the school-to-prison pipeline. 

In a preliminary statement to the media published last week, the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent listed its concerns over its findings of racial disparity in “almost all the human-development indicators such as life expectancy, income and wealth, level of education and even food security,” which the experts maintain “reflect the level of structural discrimination that creates de facto barriers for people of African descent to fully exercise their human rights.” 

And these disparities or gaps start very early in the life of black Americans, right in the school system. 

“We were informed that across the country, there are police in the schools arresting children for minor offenses. The police have authority to detain, frisk and arrest children in school. Zero-tolerance policies and heavy-handed efforts to increase security in schools have led to excessive penalization and harassment of African-American children through racial profiling. African-American children are more likely to face harsh disciplinary measures than white children. This phenomenon has been sadly described as ‘the school-to-prison pipeline,’ ” the report detailed. 

The group expressed concern about the underfunding and closures of schools in particularly poor areas with predominantly black populations, inclusive of threats to close the Chicago State University, an HBCU. Experts also pointed to the high level of segregation within schools, which led to the observation about the lack of sufficient coverage of topics such as colonization and slavery, which still impact the United States today. 

“This history, crucial in the organization of the current American society, is taught differently by states and fails to adequately address the root causes of racial inequality and injustice. Consequently, this contributes to the structural invisibility of African Americans,” the report noted. 

The group offered recommendations to address the several issues outlined, including completely abolishing policing in schools and prohibiting the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. The group recommended that the government develop guidelines to ensure that school discipline policies and practices are in line with international human rights standards. It also recommended that the school curriculum in each state “reflect appropriately the history of the slave trade.” 

Read the full preliminary report and recommendations here.

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