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Statement on the Lantos Resolution regarding the World Conference on Racism

July 30, 2001

The Lantos Resolution attempts to place tape on the mouth of the United States and the world community to say what the US and the rest of the world can or cannot say in South Africa. By comparison, the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus has introduced a resolution that puts no words in the mouth of the Bush Administration, but merely suggests that the U.S. participate in the World Conference Against Racism by sending Colin Powell as the head of the US Delegation and that the US support the Conference financially. With respect to what the US can and cannot, should and should not say, the Johnson Resolution just urges the Bush Administration to adopt policy positions at the WCAR that seek to advance an understanding of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.

Amnesty International just wrote a letter to Bush urging the same position:

On July 25, a report appeared that Amnesty International USA urged the Bush Administration to increase its commitment to the conference by appointing a delegation led by Secretary of State Colin Powell and assuming a leadership role in the pre-conference preparation. In a letter sent to President Bush on July 23, AIUSA, Amnesty International USA, called on the Administration to resolve controversies that have marred preparations for the WCAR. AIUSA urged President Bush "not to allow current controversies over draft language to serve as a pretext for non-participation. We believe that such problems can be best addressed by a senior delegation representing the US at the conference, and not through a boycott." Further, Gerald LeMelle AIUSA Deputy Executive Director said, "The Bush Administration must participate in efforts to eradicate racism at home and abroad, and must seize the opportunity to move beyond the empty rhetoric on race of previous administrations by vigorously joining the debate at the World Conference Against Racism."

Additionally, Human Rights Watch just issued a report saying that the US should participate. Human Rights Watch said national and international panels should be created with maximum transparency and public participation to identify and acknowledge past abuses and to guide action to counter their present-day effect. "Groups that suffer today should be compensated by governments responsible for these practices," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "Those most seriously victimized today by past wrongs should be the first priority for compensation to end their victimization." Human Rights Watch proposed the establishment of national panels. The panels should serve as truth commissions aiming to reveal the extent to which a government's past racist practices contribute to contemporary deprivation domestically and abroad, Roth said. They should educate the public, acknowledge responsibility, and propose methods of redress and making amends.

Kofi Annan and President Bush are at the National Urban League today, but the National Urban League supports our position that the US should agree to go and support no matter what's on the agenda.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights wrote a letter to Bush along the exact same lines as the Johnson Resolution, that is, that the US should go to the Conference, that the US should financially support the Conference, and that US participation will help to bring significant issues into sharper focus at home and abroad.

Importantly the Leadership Conference letter to Bush states that "The United States should not limit its participation in this important global event, even when faced with issues that our government feels threaten fundamental American values. Rather the US should actively engage difficult topics and work to change those that belie core US principles."

If the US doesn't participate in the World Conference Against Racism, what does that prove?

Don't we lose both friends and prestige by holding out like this and telling the rest of the world what they can and cannot talk about?

I don't believe we have to resort to putting words in the mouth of the Bush Administration to prove a point.

I do believe that with the moral force of our position and the strength of our argument, we should be able to prevail without the appearance of issuing threats and intimidation.

Thirty percent of the American population consists of people of color.

We have a stake in this Conference.

I believe the majority of Americans who are not of color would like to see the US rid of its racial and tolerance problems and would further like to see the US as a leader in the effort to rid the world of racism and intolerance.

The United States should participate in the WCAR, the House should encourage that participation, and the Johnson Resolution should have been on the House floor today.

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