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Civic groups slam U.S. for "abysmal" record on race
COLUMBIA, South Carolina |
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) - The United States is rife with racial discrimination and the authorities have an "abysmal" record on promoting equality, according to a report by a coalition of 250 civic groups published on Monday.
The U.S. Human Rights Network, which groups non-profit organizations, released its report to counter the findings of a U.S. government report in April to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
The network said U.S. minorities including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Muslims face discrimination in a range of areas including voting, policing and education. Immigrants are often unfairly treated, as are women and children from ethnic minorities, it said.
A disproportionate number of minorities are arrested, charged, prosecuted and convicted compared with whites, and minorities are over-represented in U.S. prisons, said the report titled "Turning a blind eye to injustice".
Schools in areas with high concentrations of minorities often lack adequate resources and, as a result, students score poorly in federally mandated examinations, it said.
Minorities are "unfairly victimized" by racial profiling, a practice in which police can stop and frisk people based on their appearance. Muslims have been targeted particularly since the September 11 attacks by al Qaeda militants in 2001, it said.
"The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) calls upon the U.S. to improve its abysmal performance in these areas and to take immediate, robust action to bring the U.S. into compliance with its obligations under this vital Convention," the report said.
The network includes Amnesty International U.S., the ACLU and the legal defense fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
It said 5.4 million citizens are barred from voting in federal and state elections and a that disproportionate number of those were from ethnic minorities. It singled out hurricane Katrina in 2005 as an event that had exposed U.S. inequality.
'WEAPON OF SHAME'
The U.S. government submitted a report to the U.N. body in April in compliance with a stipulation that all member countries report once every two years on issues of discrimination.
In its report, the government said it was "aware of the challenges brought about by its historical legacy of racial and ethnic discrimination as well as other more recent challenges, and it continues to work toward the goal of eliminating discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or national origin."
But Washington's report, which came years late, misrepresented the situation in the United States, according to Ajamu Baraka, the network's executive director.
"This is an attempt on the part of ... organizations in the U.S. from civil society to make sure the historic record is corrected from the government report that fails to accurately depict the picture of racial discrimination," said Baraka.
"It is an attempt to use the weapon of shame when our own government fails to live up to those standards."
The United States is founded on principles of equality and justice. Since the era of slavery, campaigners have argued that authorities have failed to live up to those standards.
Baraka said the CERD committee offered a way of holding the United States to international standards and decried what he said were efforts to exempt the country from those norms.
Critics of groups such as the ACLU argue that minorities including black Americans should take more responsibility for their own problems rather than complain about the government and say anyone can succeed in America given hard work.
The United States has ratified the CERD treaty, which is designed to protect individuals from discrimination based on race whether intentional or as a result of seemingly neutral policies.
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)
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