By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
In its annual review, Human Rights Watch ranked police mistreatment of Blacks in America among human rights crises occurring across the globe.
In “World Report 2016: Events of 2015,” experts criticize U.S. police practices and become yet another international body bringing the plight of Blacks in America onto the international stage.
“Once again, high-profile police killings of unarmed African Americans gained media attention in 2015, including the deaths of Freddy Gray in Baltimore and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina,” the report said.
“The federal government does not maintain a full count of the number of people killed by police each year. The Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed in 2015 that it tracks only 35 to 50 percent of arrest-related deaths on an annual basis. A new federal law incentivizes the collection of data regarding deaths in police custody, but does not require states to provide that data and so fails to ensure reliable data on people killed by police,” it continued.
The document focused on harsh sentencing, racial disparities in criminal justice, drug reform, police reform, prison and jail conditions, poverty and criminal justice, and youth in the criminal justice system. It also tackled the rights of non-citizens, labor rights, right to health, rights of people with disabilities, women’s and girls’ rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, national security, and foreign policy.
Last May, it further noted, President Barack Obama’s Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group released recommendations to better regulate and restrict the transfer of Defense Department equipment to local law enforcement.
Human Rights Watch criticism of police brutality comes on the heels of a recommendation of reparations for Blacks in America by the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.
“We appreciate the work of Human Rights Watch and their solidarity, but on this issue, it has been addressed by the U.N. and will be addressed in September, and we want folks to just know that it’s the work of the people at the bottom, the grassroots community, the people directly impacted, and the Justice Or Else LOC! (Local Organizing Committee) that has brought this to the forefront of the U.N.,” stated Willie “J.R.” Fleming, longtime activist and member of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Chicago Justice Or Else! LOC.
“We support the efforts of Human Rights Watch, but we don’t want folks trying to jump in and take credit for the work that Blacks folks have done. That’s the danger of people releasing counter reports after the U.N. left, because history can be easily miswritten,” the activist argued passionately.
Mr. Fleming further said while grassroots activists applaud the efforts of groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, it is important to note that within these institutions are challenges around White supremacy and racial discrimination that must be addressed, not just by the police, but by some of the so-called human rights institutions.
Blacks speak for themselves, Mr. Fleming said, and they want the U.N. to do more, but he acknowledged the world organization’s reparations recommendation was one of the greatest forums to hold America accountable and quite a bold move.
“We want to keep the focus on the grassroots groups who brought the U.N. here, who got the U.N. to make a recommendation of reparations for not just the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, but the continued acts of genocide that happens at the hands of police, politicians, and policy,” Mr. Fleming said.
The Human Rights Watch report as well as the United Nations group’s decision on reparations expose what’s happening in America to a world view, said Nation of Islam student Minister Jeffrey Muhammad of Mosque Maryam and the Chicago LOC. However, what is also important is the people’s display that they get it, or are starting to show it, that after that fails, they will see that they do not have any other options.
“The enemy is not going to change unless he is forced to change,” Min. Muhammad said. “The Minister (Louis Farrakhan) said a long time ago that as time goes by, we will be able to see the devil more clearly. That Allah (God) would make him manifest so that his work will have to become worse, because our people did not grasp that we had an enemy.”
Min. Muhammad added, “What we are seeing in Chicago, those that are staunch civil rights activists, they are having the conversation now, we need to do something for ourselves. We need to separate. We need a land of our own, because they are realizing, especially in Chicago, police officers can kill us, nothing is going to happen. We can march, protest, picket, boycott and they are still shooting us. That leaves us with very little options. Now (Black activists) are coming to that conclusion on their own,” Min. Muhammad continued.
The Human Rights Watch report’s mention of America’s police brutality problem sheds more light on how the U.S. treats her Black citizens while she steadily preaches human rights to other countries.
“I think it’s essential to bring the plight of African Americans and police brutality in the U.S. to a world stage because it’s a history and systemic problem that has plagued African Americans since we were brought on ships against our will as slaves,” said Attorney Nicole Lee, human rights lawyer and immediate past president of TransAfrica, the Black lobby for Africa and the Caribbean.
Atty. Lee said it is essential also because the United States has had such an impact on the rest of the world in terms of militarism, economics, and policing that where it is wrong, there must be a recognition and an acknowledgement so that other marginalized people are not so easily violated, and that despots do not just merely follow suit.
In addition, she said, it is important when activists step out and demand their full rights–and part of full rights is demanding rights that are protected by human rights organizations internationally.
“I think it’s been difficult for some human rights organizations to be able to accept the fact that the ongoing treatment of African Americans falls within violations of human rights, and I do think it’s been incumbent upon local solidarity groups to continue to pressure to make sure that African Americans are recognized,” Atty. Lee said.
However, she noted, it’s not uncommon in other places and among other people, such as “Afro Columbians, the people’s landless movements, and indigenous struggles around the globe” for those who are oppressed to seriously advocate for human rights protections.
“I think that as more African Americans recognize that they are in an international human rights struggle, they will find that there are many peoples around the globe that will agree and support us,” she said.