Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Comment by Amb. Thomas-Greenfield at the UN General Assembly Commemorative Meeting on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
US Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
18 March 2022

as distributed

President, thank you for calling us here to mark this important day for the international eradication of racial discrimination. I also thank the Secretary-General for joining us today for this important meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just left the Security Council where I learned of the passing of our Irish colleague, Jim Kelly. We held him in such high esteem, and we will miss him in our midst. And I send my heartfelt condolences to the Irish Mission.

President, last year, I told the General Assembly about my personal experiences with racism. And I talked about the Atlanta spa shooting that just happened, where six Asian women were killed. We are now celebrating the one-year anniversary of that tragic event – ​​and yet, anti-Asian racism and racism of all kinds continue to rise. This week, 30 minutes north of here, Yonkers police officers say a man hit a woman 125 times in the head because she was Asian. He is being charged with attempted murder. This anti-Asian bias has been on the rise around the world since the pandemic, and must stop.

We have seen a similarly appalling increase in hate crimes against black and brown people in the United States. Anti-Semitism is also on the rise – more than a third of American Jews say they have been verbally or physically attacked in the past five years because they are Jewish. 90% of Jews in Europe feel that anti-Semitism has increased in their country. More than one in three have considered emigrating to avoid that worry.

The sad truth is that racism breeds more racism. We have to stop this trend in its tracks.

Youth activists and grassroots movements are on the front lines of this effort and are facing a growing threat of racism in countries around the world. In the summer of 2020, Black Lives Matter ignited protests and catalyzed change in countries around the world, from the United Kingdom to Colombia, France to New Zealand.

In Nigeria, AND SARS, an equally decentralized social movement, is calling for accountability of abuses and respect for black people. And SARS and Black Lives Matter activists are working together, supporting each other and leading us to change.

There is a Quilombo movement in Brazil, where black Brazilians are creating space to celebrate their identity.

Australia has adivasis pushing for justice, Dalit farmers demanding to do away with the yolk of the caste system in India.

And we cannot forget the plight of the Rohingya in Burma or the Uighurs in China and members of other racial and ethnic groups who are brutally persecuted simply because of who they are or what they believe.

What members of all these global movements and many others for racial justice understand is that our differences – our differences – are the source of our strength. As President Biden put it, “Our nation’s greatest strength is and always has been our diversity.” That’s why President Biden has made advancing racial equality and combating systemic racism a core priority of his administration, signing off on four executive actions as soon as he takes office. And that’s why, this past year, he directed historic investments toward black and brown communities—including money and resources, Vice President Harris announced this week for historically black colleges and universities that have recently I had experienced bomb threats.

The powerful belief that diversity is a force is true for communities and countries everywhere. Growing up, I faced adversity. But it finally made me stronger. And as I made my way through life, I found that I could flex my “adversarial muscles”—I remembered how I dealt with adversity in the past, and it made me move forward with stronger and more determination. helped to grow. It’s time for the world to flex its “adverse muscles” too.

Racism is a global problem and a local problem, but it also means that we can unite in our fight against it. We have allies in this fight everywhere in the world. And this is the power – this is the power – of our international system. This is where the United Nations comes in handy. The United Nations, as Ralph Bunch said in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “exists not only to preserve peace, but also to alter – even radically – violent upheaval. possible without.”

That is why the United States strongly supported the establishment of a permanent forum on people of African descent. That is why we strongly support an international independent expert mechanism to advance racial justice and equality in law enforcement. And that is why we must support the real and radical change of the United Nations to eliminate racism and discrimination in all its forms.

The United Nations is uniquely prepared to inspire change. This should be the place where we expose racial discrimination to our societies and to the world. It should be the place where we recognize our shared humanity and work to remove the rottenness of racism from our foundation. And today, right now, right here, is the time to harness the energy, optimism, and activism of the next generation, and to do everything—everything—in our power to leave them with a less disgusting, more optimistic world.

Thanks a lot. Thank you, Mr President.


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