Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama Administration to Boycott Racism Conference at Durban--Just like Bush



Photo used to illustrate issues of environmental racism at Durban I

At a time when racial conflict and discrimination are on the rise around the world, the Administration of the world's first black U.S. president will not be attending the world's most important conference on race and racism. In what may signal a dangerous new, "post-racial" approach to global race relations, President Barack Obama's Administration announced that it will not attend the second World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva next April.
--Robert Lovato, New American Media

When George Bush boycotted the Durban Racism Conference in 2001, I wasn't surprised. To see it happen again, under a black president, an icon of change, is not only disappointing but rises to a level of disgust.

More below the fold.



Bowing to what has become an overwhelming barrage of criticism from media punditry and political lobbying groups, the Obama administration claims the US--a country with a history of racism that is near legendary--cannot attend Durban because of perceived slights to Israel:

The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through that meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism — the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state — to racism.


It is telling that Israel takes such an affront to accusations of racism, much like apartheid South Africa objected to such labels, and as its sponsor (the US) once shunned such depictions from activists like Malcolm X--who threatened to take his case before the UN. Rather than engaging in discussion and debate, these states have simply opted to paint their critics as the actual pariahs.

But, though the Israel-slight mantra is easiest to hide behind, there were other problems that echoed the Bush administration's boycott, as pointed out by Lovato:

Other concerns cited by Administration officials, some of whom recently attended preparatory meetings in Geneva, in their justification of the boycott include a proposal to place restrictions on the defamation of religions and any language calling for reparations for slavery.


While I can see some apprehension to "restrictions on the defamation of religion" and know all-to-well how much the US winces whenever slavery (much less reparations) is brought up, that's hardly a worthy reason for a country with a history of Native American ethnic cleansing, slavery and Jim Crow apartheid to boycott a conference on racism. Durban II will also address issues as far ranging as the trafficking of women and children to rape in the Congo. All of this the Obama administration is giving up, because they disagree on some "wording." Talk about your baby with the bathwater.

Read full article by Robert Lovato of New American Media here.

Excerpts below:

At a time when racial conflict and discrimination are on the rise around the world, the Administration of the world's first black U.S. president will not be attending the world's most important conference on race and racism. In what may signal a dangerous new, "post-racial" approach to global race relations, President Barack Obama's Administration announced that it will not attend the second World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva next April.


Increasing numbers of experts report that most continents -- Europe, Africa, Asia -- are seeing exponential growth in hate crimes, ethnic tensions and other manifestations of the racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, the kind on intolerance that will be discussed at the Durban II Conference. And in the Américas, the very palpable rise in racial tensions, hate crimes and other discrimination are well illustrated by events here in the "post-racial" United States: the NY Post Chimpanzee cartoon scandal, the U.S. visit (including a film screening in Congress) by Danish racist Veert Wilder and the massive protests against the racial profiling, humiliation and other practices of Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, to name a few taking place in the United States. And these were only the events that the Obama Administration was silent about this past week.


The Obama Administration's silence on both these racial incidents and on such fundamentally racial -and global-problems as the "drug war," criminal justice reform and immigrant detention contrasts with the much-lauded statements on race by Attorney General Eric Holder. In statements made to coincide with the start of Black History Month, Holder called the U.S. "a nation of cowards" when it comes to discussion of race.


...with its very dangerous boycott of Durban II in response to pressure from the very powerful Israel Lobby , the Obama Administration may be giving the green light to governments and other groups practicing their own brand of racial discrimination, promoting hatred and other forms of discrimination. While much of the media is discussing the U.S. boycott, most of these reports neglect to the mention the near universal condemnation of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians, which United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto likened to apartheid last November...



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