Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community
We Can't Do It Without You!  
     
Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search
   
 
   Headlines  
 

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
 
 
UN World Conference Against Racism: US Derided for Walkout
Published on Wednesday, September 5, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle
UN World Conference Against Racism
US Derided for Walkout
SF Delegates Disappointed by US Exit
by Anastasia Hendrix
 
Delegates from several Bay Area organizations say they are dismayed by the U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, but they remain undaunted.

"What is most disappointing is that the U.S. government refused to participate based on the very principles that (America) was built on, and that is freedom of expression," said Krishanti Dharmaraj, executive director of the Women's Institute for Leadership Development in San Francisco, speaking from the Durban apartment where she and 35 other group delegates are staying.

"What the U.S. government refused to acknowledge is that people have the right to disagree . . . and instead it is just giving up," Dharmaraj said. "And that is disappointing as a U.S. citizen."

Few were surprised by the decision, given the government's repeated warnings in the weeks leading up to the event, said Steve Williams, executive director of San Francisco's People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), which sent two representatives.

"In some sense, the U.S. leaving is creating space for people to have a substantive discussion about what racism looks like, instead of trying to fight with them about language," Williams said from his San Francisco office. "For the folks going from POWER, our objective was to make connections and link up with other activists across the globe -- and the U.S. pulling out doesn't have too much of an impact on that."

Wilson Riles, San Francisco regional director of the American Friends Service Committee, called the decision "shameful and immature," adding that many delegates -- including about 40 from his organization -- suspect the government is trying to deflect attention from its own race problems.

"I think a lot of the talk about Israel is camouflage for the government not wanting to talk about reparations for slavery," said Riles.

For most, however, no amount of high-level political maneuvering can cast a pall over the personal experience of being there.

"They are excited to meet all kinds of different people from around the world who are dealing with some of the similar issues that women of color are dealing with here," said Miriam Louie of the Women of Color Resource Center in Berkeley, referring to the two dozen delegates the group sent to Durban.

Despite some frustration over the U.S.-Israeli withdrawal, Dharmaraj said most attendees are focused on the fight against racism.

"We are keeping in mind that this is a struggle, and the struggle will continue," she said yesterday. "Durban is only one stop in that journey, and our spirits are high to continue that work, and the U.S. government will not stop the work happening."

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle

###

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article

 
     
 
 

CommonDreams.org is an Internet-based progressive news and grassroots activism organization, founded in 1997.
We are a nonprofit, progressive, independent and nonpartisan organization.

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search

To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Copyrighted 1997-2011