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When You Can't Ignore Racism, Just Lock It up

The US Doesn’t Need A Conference on Racism: It Attacks and Incarcerates Its 'Race' Problem!

Lenore J. Daniels

The US won't be there!

President Barack Obama doesn't want to look back. Racism is dead. Let's move on!

So the U.S. won't be there. It has better, nobler things to do.

It plans to boycott the United Nations World Conference on Racism scheduled for April 20-25, 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. Unless the final document drop references to Israel and removes the topic of reparations for slavery, the Obama administration will pass up the chance to ask itself (and explain to the world) why its regime insists on practicing and supporting other regimes that engage in systemic racism.

According to the Associated Press, "Obama's administration decided to assess the negotiations before making a decision on U.S. participation." And it "assessed" that, no, it's not necessary to show up! The two officials reported back to Washington D.C. that "a bad document got worse." No good.

"The United States has decided that it will not participate in further negotiations on the outcome document and will not participate in the conference itself on the basis of the latest text, the U.S. officials said."

Obama's administration would reconsider the final document if it "improves in a number of areas including dropping references to any specific country," removes "references to defamation of religion which the U.S. views as a free speech issue," and removes "language on reparations for slavery."

The U.S. wants to see a "shorter text" with no suggestion that the 2009 Conference in Geneva "reaffirm" the final document from the 2001 Durban Conference on Racism, a conference that witnessed the U.S. and Israel walking out in protest.

AIPAC, quoted by the Associated Press, praised the Obama decision.

Israel isn't an ally to Black Americans. In fact, Black America has few nation-state allies. US corporations and the US military industrial complex render political protection and financial aid to many nations that, in turn, are used to wage wars for profit and annihilate the rights and lives of oppressed people the world over.

Black Americans will have fewer allies if this new administration is allowed to continue the policies of previous imperialist administrations and ignore the United State's historical bedfellow -- racism.

Recently, I came across an article written by Roger Pulvers entitled "Obama Please Note: Those Who Fail to 'Master the Past' Are Guilty, Too." Pulvers discusses how quick US presidents, Secretaries of State and Defense and members of Congress are at pointing out "human rights' abuses and political crimes" in other nations, but how reluctant they are to acknowlege these same, or similar, crimes when carried out by US policy. "The assumption," he argues, "Is always that the US occupies the moral high ground of human dignity-allowing Americans to believe in themselves as altruistic and selfless."

Pulver refers to Bernhard Schlink's Guilt About the Past, in which the University of Berlin law professor "describes the ‘long shadow' cast by the perpetrators of war crimes on their descendents." Schlink, writes Pulver, "speaks of the need to "master the past" -- that is, to come to terms with your nation's crimes through law, atonement and reconciliation for all involved. For Pulver, it's not enough to merely "‘regret' past actions and believe that ‘looking forward' and ‘getting the country moving again' are substitutes for atonement."

No, the US won't be there in Geneva next month.

Few have heard the news that the US won't attend the Conference on Racism and fewer still have read the Pew Center Report on the States, released March 2, 2009, in which it states that 7.3 million people are incarcerated within the US prison system. The report concludes that 1 out of 31 US citizens are behind bars. Most of these for non-violent crimes and most are Black Americans.

On Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!, Jamie Fellner, author of the report, "Decades of Disparity: Drug Arrests and Race in the United States, describes how Black Americans are the target of drug enforcement. Even though white and Black citizens use and sell drugs in equal numbers, the arrest rates are much higher for Black Americans.  And, "most arrests are for possession," she says, as opposed to the more serious offense of distribution or trafficking. Four in ten arrests are for marijuana possession, and not for drug dealing or drug smuggling.

"Police aren't going into white homes, white bars, white neighborhoods, white offices." But they are in the Black neighborhoods! "It is not coincidental," Fellner said.

And the so-called "war on drugs" in Colombia and Mexico isn't just coincidental either. US drug enforcers don't impose the "war on drugs" policy in France or England. Fellner associates 'the victims of all this violence' in Columbia and Mexico with US consumers who pay a 'premium based on the drugs being illegal.' "It's a Catch-22. It's a vicious circle," said added. But profitable.

The prison industrial complex has been financially profitable, too. For Upstate rural areas, predominantly white communities, employment and revenue is too profitable to pass up. Upstate prisons acquire free labor from Black Americans. In addition, the largely urban Black population incarcerated in these Upstate prisons count in the census as "residents," according to Caitlin Dunklee, Coordinator of the Correctional Association's Drop the Rock campaign and interviewed on Democracy Now! These "residents" help Upstate legislatures maintain the numbers necessary to hold a district. These "residents" also "channel anti-poverty money from the federal government into Upstate districts," Dunklee said.

Injustice and oppressive policies are profitable. The livelihood of judges, lawyers, wardens, guards, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, and just plain "hard working" workers are dependent on structural racism in the US just as presidents, secretaries of state and defense, Congress and the military industrial complexs are linked to Pax Americana and the misery and slaughter of millions.

So no, the US won't appear at the Conference on Racism. No!

It's not enough for Black academics, entertainers, politicians, and activists to stand before a microphone and report with glee that they have 'escaped' the 'hood' and the missiles of drugs, guns, police brutality, and incarceration as if the reign of attacks is acceptable, adaptable. It's not enough to toot your own horn and stand on the deck of the Titanic, listening to the voice on the loudspeaker say: We all sink or we all rise together? When has that been the case in the history of this nation?

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Please select a donation method: Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer, for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.

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