UN rights chief urges reparations for systemic racism

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Yesterday, the UN’s human rights head urged governments to do more to combat systemic racism against black people, calling for forgiveness and reparations for past wrongs.

Michelle Bachelet emphasized how deeply rooted racism against Africans and people of African heritage continues to damage all parts of their life in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

She claimed there was a “urgent need to confront the legacies of enslavement” as she presented a report following the death of George Floyd by a white US police officer last year.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on governments to confront the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism in her report, which addressed systemic racism around the world.

She emphasized that governments could only hope to “change the structures, organizations, and behaviors that lead to direct or indirect discrimination” by confronting past wrongs.

The absence of formal acknowledgement of the responsibilities of states and others who engaged in or profited from enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, and colonialism, as well as those who continue to profit from this legacy, Bachelet warned, was at the root of today’s systemic racism and racial violence.

The idea of reparations for slavery and subsequent deep-seated prejudice continues to polarize the United States.

More lately, a debate over so-called critical race theory has engulfed US schools.

The term refers to a school of thinking that emerged in American law schools in the late 1970s that considers racism as a system, facilitated by laws and institutions, rather than individual prejudices.

However, its detractors use it as a catch-all word to criticize teachers’ attempts to address difficult topics in American history, such as slavery and segregation, as well as racist stereotypes.

Bachelet urged countries to “establish, reinforce, and fully fund extensive systems… to disclose the truth about what was done, and the consequences it continues to inflict,” according to her presentation.

“It is critical to heal our societies and provide justice for heinous atrocities by establishing the truth about these legacies and their impact today, as well as taking steps to alleviate these harms through a variety of reparations approaches.”

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