Racism in America is Human Rights Abuse
September 22, 2000
Washington - Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), member
of the International Relations Committee and Ranking Member of the
International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, hosted an
issue forum on Capitol Hill recently to address an important, but
often forgotten human rights issue: human rights in the United States.
Held in conjunction with the Annual Legislative Conference of the
Congressional Black Caucus, the "Braintrust" brought attention to
current human rights violations and political prisoners of all races
currently being held in the US.
The forum focused on COINTELPRO, the FBI's secret program to eliminate
"radical" political opposition inside the US by using fraud and
force to sabotage constitutionally-protected political activity.
Prominent in the discussion was the fact that the United States
harbors political prisoners who should be released.
Panelists included Geronimo ji Jaga (formerly Geronimo Pratt),
a recently vindicated and freed political prisoner and former leader
of the Southern California chapter of the Black Panther Party as
well as former Secretary of Communications†of the Black Panther
Party Kathleen Cleaver.
Due in large part to the FBI's COINTELPRO, ji Jaga was jailed in
1972 when he was framed for a murder that took place in Los Angeles,
despite the fact that he was in Oakland, California at the time
of the crime.
Cleaver was a member of the Black Panther's central committee from
1967 to 1971. In 1969 she joined her then-husband Eldridge Cleaver
in Algeria where they founded the international section of the Black
Panther Party, making them targets of the FBI's secret "COINTELPRO"
"We all must remember that COINTELPRO did not end with the 1960's,
70's or the Cold War," said McKinney. "It is still quite alive and
because of the digital age of computers and the internet, it is
even more insidious and dangerous," McKinney said.
"Echelon and Carnivore, huge digital information collecting machines
operated by the National Security Agency and the FBI don't add to
my sense of security. In fact, Big Brother is definitely big, but
he ain't a brother," commented McKinney.
"The effects of this abuse of power by the federal government are
so damaging, that many are still afraid to speak out against it
in public," McKinney concluded.
McKinney called on the young globalization activists to join with
yesterday's victims of COINTELPRO in order to prepare for a future
of increased scrutiny and surveillance on activists.
On a related issue, McKinney expressed her dissatisfaction that
the State Department release on racism in the United States pales
in comparison to the real problems faced by America's minorities
"Racism in the United States is a human rights issue. I'm sorry
that the State Department would rather throw words to the issue
rather than substantively deal with issues that it has within its
own jurisdiction. African American employees at the Department of
State have outstanding litigation that should be quickly settled
rather than fought out in court."
However, symptomatic of the larger problems faced by America's
minorities today, black federal employees have filed lawsuits against
the following Departments or Agencies: Agriculture, Energy, State,
Treasury, EPA," McKinney stated.
In an earlier statement, McKinney said, "The assault of Mr. Jones
by Philadelphia police along with the brutal killing of Mr. Diallo
and the barbaric treatment of Mr. Louima by New York City police
demonstrates the need for an independent commission and investigation
into what has always been a national problem," said McKinney.
The Department of Justice has admitted that racism pervades the
justice system in this country, disproportionately affecting African
Americans. Sadly, there are more African Americans in jail than
there are enrolled in colleges and universties. The fact that the
State Department seems to have understated the severity of the real
concerns of America's minority communities further points to its
inability to assess our country's progress.
McKinney looks forward to the fall 2001 United Nations Conference
on Racism scheduled to take place in South Africa.