It is time to re-activate the effort to bring the crimes that the U.S. has committed against its Black denizens to the attention of the UN.
By Clarkisha Kent and Wicked Womanist
TW/CW: state-sanctioned violence, torture, sexual assault, murder, mentions of death by suicide
An imperative component—relying heavily on public cooperation and denunciation, conducting both soul-less, cloak-and-dagger and naked hateful action, with little judicial and legal oversight—it is a police force without peer. In the absence of civilian repercussions, it employs ruthless methods of identification. Its sole purpose is to silence all those who oppose and refuse to conform to the policies of a despot that upholds laws with no ethics.
This is a description of the Gestapo in 1936. This is the description of US policing in 2020.
The United States’ has committed numerous epic sins against Black and Indigenous peoples ranging from police black sites, illegal arrests, brutal interrogation techniques, to missing persons and dead freedom fighters labeled as suicides; guns and drugs covertly pushed into vulnerable neighborhoods by intelligence agencies, dividing vulnerable young men; funding wars to deprive other Black and brown people of freedom. The government, military, and police have enacted rape, torture, and extrajudicial killings; Human experiments to “cure” diseases, among other things, strange fruit hanging from familiar trees. The U.S. has also intentionally orchestrated the suppression of internal documents detailing the systematic infiltration and assimilation of white supremacists into police forces across the country.
This could read as a dystopian future. Or like a terrible evening news story broadcast ad nausea-um, the replaying of a particularly desolate remake of Groundhog Day. But it is not far away. It is here. In front of the White House, crimes against humanity are committed. The deployment of rubber bullets maiming and blinding this country’s citizens. The use of tear gas previously banned during global warfare fills the lungs of America’s inhabitants. War crimes as deemed by the Geneva Convention. The beating and the wounding of her denizens in broad daylight in her streets. Tortured plainly for the world to see. This violence is carried out against Black people—mandated even, to speak plainly—and the people who would be so brave, courageous, and foolish to stand with us as we fight for our lives.
This is genocide.
You are privileged to witness genocide in action. In front of the world’s self-proclaimed highest authority. You are privileged if you only witness it and don’t have to experience it.
There are many answers to the question of how we arrived here. There are even more obvious answers to this same question. But the principal one lies with the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, which took place nine days ago. This is not the first time a Black person has been killed by the police. But it is—as was as the state attorney’s initial and purposeful reluctance to charge the officers involved with murder—this latest incident that proved to be the catalyst for the radicalization of many of us. And what it means to the enduring fight for Black lives across the globe.
The unrest that has followed—eight days and counting—was ignited by the Black people (Somalis in particular) of Minneapolis…and has quickly traveled across the country. All Virgil states protesting. Of course, this has caused panic within our incompetent government. Enough panic that the Chucklefuck-in-Chief has threatened to deploy the full force of the military against us (even as several DEMOCRATIC governments across the US have deployed the National Guard).
But is it really incompetence if the system is working just fine for those in power? Those who are new to this will argue the former, but we assure you that it is the latter. And as this is the case, the pressure mounting against the American government can and should be supplemented with just as intense international authorities, who would, at the very least, think themselves enlightened.
In short: It is time to re-activate the effort to bring the crimes that the United States of America has committed against its Black denizens to the attention of the United Nations.
Some of you may think that this is a reach. A pipe dream even. But you’d be wrong, especially because there is a historic precedent for this. There was a burgeoning effort that garnered important momentum during 2016, but to understand how possible this is, it is our duty to go back. It is our duty to look to our ancestors and retrace the steps that they laid before us. Steps that have led us to this very serendipitous point in history.
On W.E.B’s Du Bois Attempt
Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the Black people with courtesy and consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.
– The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, one W. E. B. Du Bois, was known for many things. Being the first Black American to earn a doctorate. Being a founder of the NAACP. And writing two of some of the most important pieces of literature in Black history—The Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction in America. But one of the things that he is less known for (by design) was his spirited and dedicated effort to bring the crimes that the United States government had committed against Black citizens to the attention of the United Nations on October 23rd,1947.
Such an effort was likely inspired by his growing interest in pan-Africanism, how it brought on his later theories on anti-colonial nationalism, and how those theories on anti-colonialism nationalism interacted with African nationalism and the entire African diaspora.
A similar appeal had been made by the National Negro Congress in 1946 (an effort Du Bois was also part of), but this appeal was intentionally downplayed or ignored…which I am assuming occurred because the organization was Communist-led. This initial rejection may have discouraged the average person, but seeing as Du Bois was not the average person, he returned the very next year—this time with an extremely detailed petition spanning 96-odd pages. Containing six deeply intricate chapters that covered a variety of ways in which the United States government had purposely thwarted and suppressed the advancement of Black people in America (including topics (ranging from slavery and Jim Crow to voting rights, criminal justice, education, employment, access to healthcare and etc), this petition was written under his editorial supervision and contributed by leading experts in each of these areas—including Earl B. Dickerson, William Robert Ming, Jr., and more.
And they titled it “An Appeal to The World”.
Or, less commonly known, “An Appeal to The World: A Statement of Denial of Human Rights to Minorities in the Case of Citizens of Negro Descent in the United States of America and an Appeal to the United Nations for Redress”.
Obviously, this was a big fucking deal. So big that former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt—a white woman who thought herself an ally, I’m assuming—objected to the introduction of this petition to the United Nations. Mind you, this is the same woman who was passionate about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was a whole member of the board of directors for the NAACP. And still. She refused to be the one to introduce Du Bois’ petition for fear that it would “harm the international reputation of the United States”.
And per Cold War Civil Rights by Mary L. Dudziak, Roosevelt’s simultaneous white fragility and rage—expressed through a tantrum—caused her to threaten retaliation if all parties were to move forward with the petition… which eventually killed the effort, despite objections from, wouldn’t you know, The Soviet Union to investigate: “According to Du Bois, the American delegation had ‘refused to bring the curtailment of our civil rights to the attention of the General Assembly [and] refused willingly to allow any other nation to bring this matter up. If any should, Mr. [sic] Roosevelt has declared that she would probably resign from the United Nations delegation.’ The Soviet Union, however, proposed that the NAACP’s charges be investigated. On December 4, 1947, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights rejected that proposal, and the United Nations took no action on the petition.”
After unsurprisingly being ousted by then-NAACP president Walter White (the jokes write themselves) for critiquing his willingness to still be apart of the US delegation despite their suppression of “An Appeal to the World, Du Bois would later attempt to appeal to the UN again with the petition “We Charge Genocide” and with the help of the Civil Rights Congress in 1952. This new petition quoted the UN’s own description of genocide, which stated that “any intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, or religious group is genocide”, and was followed by “We Charge Genocide” boldly declaring that “the oppressed Negro citizens of the United States, segregated, discriminated against, and long the target of violence, suffer from genocide as the result of the consistent, conscious, unified policies of every branch of government”.
This new petition garnered nigh-unanimous praise from Black and international media, but as the white-dominated media in the US always does when it comes to the struggle for Black lives, they tore the petition to shreds. Sneered at it. Basically equated it to snitching to the UN about a situation that wasn’t all that serious… to them. And then they buried it in anti-communist sentiments and talking points by saying that such a petition would aid communism around the globe (spelling a certain kind of doom for “democracy” and mainly? The United States). And once again, the US delegation—led by Roosevelt and assisted by coons like Edith Sampson and Channing Tobias who argued that the treatment of Black people was improving in the US—gaslighted Du Bois and Co. and thus pressured the UN into never formerly acknowledging the document.
On Malcolm X’s attempt:
“We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of human beings in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”
– BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY as given by Malcolm X at the Founding Rally of the OAAU (June 28, 1969)
Malcolm has always been the personification of Black rage. Complex and dazzling, brilliant, enigmatic charm, bravado, ever-changing. The impetus of his work powered by the sheer and nigh singular force of love. Love for his people. For Black people. His work reflects his life in its sharp fractures, swinging like a pendulum, wildly. In the last year of his life, Malcolm broke from the separatism of the Nation of Islam and began the work of developing a pedagogy of pan-African nationalism.
Malcolm attempted to channel his vision of racial justice using the International human rights provision of the United Nations as an instrument in his endeavor to convey the urgency of Black genocide in the United States. His initial efforts were centered around establishing and maintaining a relationship between Black Americans and all Africans, both as a liberating pedagogy and using the means of our shared bondage to elevate the struggle of Black America from “civil rights” to international human rights.
In order to understand what Malcolm sought to accomplish in picking up where W.E.B. DuBois left off, it is imperative to understand his personal evolution from racial separatism proponent to international human rights advocate.
The Nation of Islam’s first aspect of its ideology, preached that the white man was the devil. From that literature, Malcolm concluded that the white man’s collective history showcased that he did indeed act as a devil towards non-whites. The solutions that Malcolm proposed to remedy the perceived lack of Black self-love and success began with addressing four elements: freedom, unity, love, and knowledge. He stressed self-love and unity to combat “self-inflicted genocide” through drugs, alcohol, and crime; and concluded that the success of Black people depended on maintaining its physical distance from whites.
Under Malcolm’s stewardship, the Nation of Islam grew to an extraordinary size, elevating him to “National Minister”. His success, his ethics, and morals ran afoul on the patriarch. Malcolm’s introduction of fevered Black Nationalism into the annals of a deeply religious organization, inspired Muhammed’s further distrust and ire, complete with pursed lipped smiles, hiding venom. Malcolm, as most prophets are, was before his time.
Following the break from The Nation of Islam, Malcolm began developing his unique pedagogy, concluding that international humanitarian assistance was imminent in the novel genocide inflicted. Malcolm began crafting the “Outline for Petition to the United Nations charging genocide against 22 million Black Americans”. His development of political viewpoints includes the dramatic shift from separatism to the call for unity, of all Black people across all nations. A pivot to Pan-Africanism, fresh from his World Tour.
A letter from Mecca, dated April 25, described how Malcolm had arrived at his new insights on race relations while on a pilgrimage:
“There are Muslims of all colors and ranks here in Mecca from all parts of this earth,” he wrote.
“During the past seven days of this holy pilgrimage, while undergoing the rituals of the hajj [pilgrimage], I have eaten from the same plate, drank from the same glass, slept on the same bed or rug, while praying to the same God—not only with some of this earth’s most powerful kings, cabinet members, potentates and other forms of political and religious rulers —but also with fellow‐Muslims whose skin was the whitest of white, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, and whose hair was the blondest of blond—yet it was the first time in my life that I didn’t see them as ‘white’ men. I could look into their faces and see that these didn’t regard themselves as ‘white.’
Malcolm’s Black Nationalism continued to make him a target of increased harassment from the NOI and by white authorities, painting him as a foreign agent, an instigator. A parallel he shared with W.E.B. DuBois, who stood trial under accusations of being a foreign agent. Despite this obvious harassment, Malcolm continued to thrive in notoriety; delivering the “Bullet or the Ballot”, his most famous address, ripe with his new ideas. His star was still rising despite all odds… until it was not.
Malcolm utilized the monumental support and goodwill he had received through his work and travel to create the Organization of Afro American Unity (OAAU), modeled after the OAU; the Organization of African Unity. He appealed the OAU for African sponsorship to speak on behalf of all the oppressed Black people at the UN delegation. A strategic move, by a master tactician. This entreaty would allow Malcolm to address the UN, while bypassing the requirement of the US delegation and support. We cannot say with certainty that the petition would have been successful, as the OAU was reluctant to lend its support, he was denied an audience. Malcolm sought to submit this petition, in spite of the lack of formal support. For all his troubles, he was murdered.
Why This is a Key Moment to Involve the UN
Many of you will rightfully question the validity of appealing to the United Nations, particularly because the last two major attempts (three technically) fell on intentionally closed ears. But it is this timing that will give a new effort a fair shot… as well as the United States declining status as a “superpower”. This includes the decline of the US economic status, an inadequate response to a global pandemic, irresponsible, profoundly immoral and wicked laws brought on by decades of intentionally oppressive policies; the plundering of coffers for social programs, and public servants with personal interests.
While there were anti-American sentiments in the world prior to this pandemic because of this country’s long history of deputizing itself as THE world’s police (and, you know, bombing and occupying countries around the world), America skyrocketing to become the country with the highest [new] cases of COVID-19 exposed its ass and what it’s international policy really boils down to: an inept schoolyard bully that “carries a big stick” because it is scared of all the other kids it bullied banding together to rightfully jump them.
And it is this reason that early presidential administrations that immediately followed or coincided with the founding of the UN (particularly Truman) took measured steps to attempt to undermine this international body (with repeated threats to pull out or cease paying dues by initial delegates like Eleanor Roosevelt), because they feared repercussions for not only this country’s original sins of genociding its Indigenous population and the African’s that they stole from their native continent, but because it meant that other countries that it had subjected to its poorly-hidden tyranny had a real chance at holding this “superpower” accountable.
Now, this chance is presenting itself again.
Which is to say that the United Nations and its charter, created in the aftermath of World War II, in an effort to avoid aggressive and methodical violations of human rights, is the final resort. The UN Charter thought of as the foundation of international human rights, contains a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The international community has extended its reach to provide a universal jurisdiction for the perpetrators of genocide and grievous breaches of humanitarian law, despite the United States repeated attempts to derail this jurisdiction.
This nation, the United States of America, has long been overdue to stand and answer for its heinous crimes both past and present, against humanity. And in the fight for that accountability, humanitarian intervention could prove critical in tipping the scales towards equity—complete with reparations. It is a step towards abolishing the police force, the prison system, and the complete transformation of the judicial system. We need intervention to protect Black people from the deeply entrenched white supremacist violence that hovers intrusively and the UN is duty-bound to assist.
Wicked Womanist is a Pro-Black, Pro-Heaux, Misandrist, Weight Lifter, Tarot Reader. I double as a lip gloss enthusiast by day and a millennial disaster moonchild by night. Lots of big hoop energy here, too, so I hope you’re ready.
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