A report by the U.N. human rights office finds systemic racism against people of African descent is deep-rooted and says urgent measures are needed to dismantle discriminatory systems.
It took the death of a Black man, George Floyd, 46, at the hands of a police officer in the United States in May 2020 to draw global attention to the problem of systemic racism. There was a groundswell of global support in the immediate aftermath of the event, which has since largely fizzled out.
The United Nations reports some countries have taken steps to address racism. But those, for the most part, have been piecemeal. They fall short of what is needed to dismantle the entrenched, societal racism that has existed for centuries.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says people of African descent in many countries have less access to health, food and education, and they often are victims of enforced disappearance and violence.
She says the U.N. report finds African migrants and migrants of African descent are victims of excessive use of force and killings by law enforcement officials. She says they are subject to punitive drug policies and arrests and are overly represented in prisons.
“Where available, the data continues to point to disproportionately high rates of death of people of African descent by law enforcement in different countries," Shamdasani said. "And families of African descent continue to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes that they face in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives.”
The report focuses in detail on seven cases of police-related fatalities of people of African descent. They include the cases of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, an African American medical worker shot and killed by police in March 2020.
Shamdasani said their families are still seeking justice, as are the families of five other people of African descent killed by police agents in France, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Colombia.
“A year later, the report states that while there has been some progress toward accountability in some of these emblematic cases, unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion,” she said.
Shamdasani said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to follow the issue. She said the office would be producing annual reports on progress and on new violations that come to light.