The United States And The Up-And-Coming "World Conference Against Racism"
The United Nations is planning an anti-racism conference titled, "The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Intolerance, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance," also known as the Durban II Conference, slated for April 20-24 of this year.
This will be the fourth in a series of conferences, the first helped end apartheid in South Africa. However, the most recent conference, which took place in 2001, was not as productive and perhaps brought into question the very title of the conference.
The 2001 conference had many criticisms, which eventually led then Secretary of State Colin Powell to withdraw U.S.
participation with the main criticism being that the conference focused disproportionately on and singled out Israel as a racist, apartheid state. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Durban II was a "cynical conference whose sole purpose is blatant anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment disguised as a battle against racism."
The U.S. traveled to Geneva earlier this year in an attempt to discuss and negotiate the conference's final document. According to a State Department Official quoted in the Washington Post, "Unfortunately, the document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse. The current text of the draft of the outcome document is, in the United States government's estimation, unsalvageable."
According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration disclosed that the U.S. would boycott this year's conference unless the final document is changed to drop all references to Israel and the defamation of religion.
This recent decision has pitted human rights advocates, who urge U.S. participation in the Durban II conference, against Jewish organizations, who support the U.S.'s decision.
I'd like to dig a bit deeper. After all, we owe it to ourselves and those that are being violated. And by not digging deeper, we are in a sense, violating our own intelligence.
Racism and human rights violations exist in Israel. This must be addressed in this conference and beyond. That being said, violations of other countries must not be ignored. The best solutions and actions result from understanding and examining all injustices and acts of racism, not ignoring them. The goal of this meeting should be to address and constructively discuss all pressing acts of racism and hatred, not one.
We must not forget there are countless genocides, racism, discrimination, and injustices occurring as we go through the motions of our daily lives.
Historically, it has been proven that it is extremely dangerous to single out one group with blame. This makes a single group vulnerable of taking on the role of the scapegoat. Israel should be held accountable for their actions but the situations of other countries need to be addressed equally.
As a country with the power and diversity that makes up the U.S., we must at all times, make an effort to keep our ears, eyes, and mind open. With our resources and power, we hold a responsibility to treat all countries and groups with equality.
Discrimination does not simply exist and stop in Israel. They extend to the actions of China. Hatred has been used against the people of Darfur. These are only two examples. We must realize all violations of human rights and discrimination that are occurring simultaneously.
Unfortunately, with the pace of racism, killings and violations occurring throughout the world, most of the victims, each with their own individual stories will never be heard. Their mothers, sisters, brothers and daughters will mourn in corners of the world, faceless to the international community.
The fact that they have been skinned, raped, and humiliated will remain unlistened if we continue to choose the path of ignorance and apathy.
To ignore these silent cries, is in effect, killing our own consciousness, morality and civilization. We are in a position of opportunity to reject the role of passive participants in a society of ignorance.
This is why we must shed light on all forms of injustice and racism. Not simply single out one group.
If we believe that we are indeed a country that is based on equality - we must reclaim this through our own minds and actions. It is no secret that the international community, along with many of our own people, has seen the U.S. as a country of arrogance, contradiction, and ignorance.
The upcoming conference has the potential of compromising the idea of combating racism by disproportionately allowing for a bashing of one group.
The election of our new president was one of the first steps to bring this country back to the fundamental beliefs that it so often claims it represents. This is an opportunity to start walking the talk, rather than continue to make empty promises and statements, which have degraded our credibility and consciousness as a nation. Along with our president and country, we must also begin to walk the talk.
This is no easy task. It surely will not occur by continuing to settle, accept lies, looking the other way and drugging our minds with escapism available to us in the many forms of mindless distractions. Once our hands and eyes are free from these forms of futile escapism, we can start to change and evolve.
Ideally, the U.S. should participate in a conference addressing racism occurring globally. This is crucial. It is important we engage in an international dialogue as many human rights advocates urge, but we mustn't settle. Hopefully, the statement made by the U.S. will force the conference planners to revaluate the distribution of discussion and language.
Our president has made the decision to not accept an insufficient form of addressing racism. The people making up this country, in turn, must make efforts to understand the racism that exists within and beyond the borders of our country. The first step is to be able to recognize all instances of racism when it is occurring.