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Race and the Obama Administration


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By Danny Glover

The Nation - Our historical struggle against racism can claim great progress as a legacy of the civil rights movement led by the likes of Fanny Lou Hamer and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but this 2009 review of the 2001 Durban conference against racism should still be a moment in which the administration of President Obama returns to the world stage to join deliberations aimed at making even further progress against injustice.

For twenty years, Congressman John Conyers, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, has annually introduced a bill urging the United States to form a commission to study whether reparations are an appropriate response to the continuing legacy of slavery in our country. Would not the Durban Review Conference be a perfect venue to the administration to support the remedies recommended by the global community of nations to overcome the impacts of racism, slavery, anti-Semitism, apartheid and other forms of discrimination?

Would this United Nations conference not be exactly the right place for our new president to show the world that his administration's commitment to "change we can believe in" means rejecting our country's tarnished legacy of violating international law, undermining the United Nations and using American exceptionalism to justify walking away from the leadership responsibility many in the world expect of the United States? To make that change clear, wouldn't this be a great opportunity to remind the world that even if the final document does not call out the name of every perpetrator government, the United States at least believes that every group of victims facing discrimination or worse based on their identity, especially the most vulnerable, and those who are stateless and thus in need of special attention by the international community, should be named and promised assistance?

This should be a moment for the United States to rejoin the global struggle against racism, the struggle that the Bush administration so arrogantly abandoned. I hope President Obama will agree that the United States must participate with other nations in figuring out the tough issues of how to overcome racism and other forms of discrimination and intolerance, and how to provide repair to victims. Our country certainly has much to learn; and maybe, for the first time in a long time, we have something by way of leadership to share with the rest of the world in continuing our long struggle to overcome. Read more.

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