Report: Racism plagues U-S despite progress

Friday, September 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON – The laws of the United States meet the requirements of an international treaty on eliminating racism, but American society has not achieved that goal, a federal report released Thursday concludes.

In its first analysis of U.S. compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the U.S. government admitted that racism remains a stubborn problem.

Researchers cited recent incidents as reminders of the need to eliminate racism: the 1991 police beating of black motorist Rodney King; the shooting death of African immigrant Amadou Diallo by police in New York; the burning of synagogues, mosques and black churches; the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas; the shootings at a Jewish cultural center in Los Angeles; and the discriminatory practices revealed in a lawsuit against Denny's restaurants.

"We have not yet met the challenge of creating a colorblind society," said Harold Hongju Koh, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

"While officially sanctioned segregation has been eliminated, de facto segregation and persistent racial discrimination continue in parts of our society," he said.

A shift in the racial and ethnic composition of the country is an exacerbating factor, the report said.

While whites are a majority of the population – 196.1 million – they are a shrinking percentage of the population, falling from 75.7 percent in 1991 to 71.9 percent today.

During the same period, the country's Asian population increased by 46 percent, to 10.9 million; the Hispanic population increased by 40 percent, to 31.4 million; American Indians increased by 16 percent to 2.4 million and the number of blacks rose by 14 percent, to 34.9 million.

"The true extent of contemporary racism remains clouded by ignorance as well as differences of perception," the report said. "While most whites do not believe there is much discrimination today in American society, most minorities see the opposite in their life experiences."

In a separate report, civil-rights and social-advocacy groups said the United States is out of compliance with the U.N. treaty in certain areas, such as affirmative action, racial profiling by police and administration of the death penalty.

They urged the United Nations to consider American-style racism a human-rights problem.

"There have been increasing demands, especially by developing countries, that while the U.S. must continue to focus attention on human-rights violations abroad, we need to do more to recognize and address situations of human-rights noncompliance in our own country," said the report, compiled by the World Organization Against Torture USA.

The State Department report does not declare American racism a human-rights concern, saying that no society is without racism or discrimination.