This article explores the interrelationships between gun violence, race and politics in America versus human rights obligations our country assumed following its ratification of the International Convention to End all forms of Racial Discrimination. Our country’s progress under that treaty will be reviewed by the UN’s CERD in August of this year in Geneva, Switzerland. In what was called an act of public shaming by media, in March of this year the UN committee overseeing our country’s obligations under another treaty we have ratified (the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights) cited numerous human rights abuses by our country – included was rampant gun violence and the proliferation of stand-your-ground laws. An important question becomes why our government is not aggressively intervening to put a halt to the grossly disproportionate loss of life and injury to gun violence in a segment of its own citizenry.
Did NC lawmakers knowingly put a law into effect that violates legal obligations the US has accepted under an international treaty to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination? Additionally, the deleterious effects of racial discrimination and political marginalization on longevity, health, and childhood development are well-publicized. Did lawmakers knowingly put a law into effect that could only help to sustain, and even create, conditions that contribute to premature death and a host of serious health problems in African-Americans, including impaired childhood development? With our current knowledge base regarding the millions of lost and damaged lives due to the deleterious effects of racial discrimination, laws like NC’s Voter ID law should be viewed as something far more serious than just an obstruction of a civil right.
The estimated six year shortfall in life expectancy between African-Americans versus white Americans, largely attributable to disproportionate adverse socio-economic conditions created by over two centuries of racist portrayals and discriminatory legislative/policy actions, results in 240 million lost years when applied to a population of nearly 40 million African-Americans (2010 census). The estimated premature loss of life in just the existing African-American population of today totals into the millions of individuals and is conservatively estimated to easily exceed at least ten percent of that population. In considering the potential cumulative loss of life since the beginning of the 20th century, it becomes apparent that the United States is in the midst of an ongoing and prolonged human rights atrocity of considerable magnitude, in direct contrast to our country’s position of being a standard bearer of human rights in the international community. Recent restrictive Voter ID Laws, such as North Carolina’s, that disproportionately disenfranchises the African-American poor, can only work to maintain the adverse conditions that contribute to premature death in a historically discriminated population. The concerns expressed here extend into other political actions such as gerrymandering along racial lines that effectively reduces African-American representation. Further, these concerns are held to represent serious human rights issues that violate at least three treaties both signed and ratified by the United States.
The GOP’s decision to reinstate tax cut policy in 2001 exposed their hand. It was not about deficit reduction, growing the economy, or job creation. It was about ideology and, no doubt, special interests. It was a backdoor approach where government revenue was cut in an attempt to curtail spending on popular programs they otherwise could not take head-on. This while obstructing the work of Congress, spinning a web of deceit about the benefits of their policy, and weakening our country’s financial standing. It’s time to play hardball during ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations and force them to be specific about what spending cuts they are talking about to offset the tax benefits they wish to preserve for the wealthiest. They wouldn’t have the nerve.