Biden administration inviting UN racism, human rights envoys to visit US

Antony Blinken at NATO meeting
Getty Images

The State Department announced Tuesday that it invited the United Nations’s racism and human rights envoys for a visit to the U.S. amid a national debate on racial injustice, police reform and the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms. 

The department said in a statement that it would extend an invitation to special rapporteurs who collect information on racial discrimination.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he welcomed the findings of a report from the U.N.’s human rights chief that called on countries to address their histories of racism, slavery and colonialism through “a wide range of reparations measures.” 

“As a first step, we have reached out to offer an official visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues,” Blinken said. “I also welcome the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption today in Geneva of a resolution to address systemic racism against Africans and people of African descent in the context of law enforcement.”

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday that establishing the “truth about these legacies, and their impact today, and taking steps to address this harm through a wide range of reparations measures is crucial to healing our societies and providing justice for terrible crimes.” 

“Measures taken to address the past will transform our future,” Bachelet added.

The report was commissioned by the U.N. following the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.

Blinken also stated that President Biden “is deeply dedicated to addressing racial injustice and inequities at home and abroad” and that his administration would lead “by example.”

“Great nations such as ours do not hide from our shortcomings; they acknowledge them openly and strive to improve with transparency,” Blinken said. “In so doing, we not only work to set the standard for national responses to these challenges, we also strengthen our democracy, and give new hope and motivation to human rights defenders across the globe.”

Floyd’s death, as well as the deaths of other Black Americans like Breonna Taylor sparked nationwide protests in the summer of 2020 over police brutality and racial injustice. 

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in April of this year. He was later sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison. 

News of the invitations also come amid a countrywide debate over the teaching of critical race theory — a theory which states that racism is embedded in American institutions. Some GOP-led legislatures have passed bills that prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed a bill last week that would do just that. 

Several members of the Republican Party in Congress have slammed the theory as “racist,” with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stating Tuesday that critical race theory “goes against everything Martin Luther King has ever told us — don’t judge us by the color of our skin — and now they’re embracing it, right?”

“They’re going backwards,” McCarthy added.

— Updated at 10:35 a.m.

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken Doug Ducey International relations Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Racism Reparations United Nations United States Department of State

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