Does the US face human rights challenges?

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Is the U.S. guilty of violating human rights? Yes we are! One of the most blatant violations of human rights is our judicial system concerning race. People of color continue to have their rights violated by the justice system on a routine basis. In this paper, I will provide supporting data through statistical findings and examples of human rights violations encountered by African-Americans pertaining to the war on drugs, police brutality, correctional institutions, economics and political prisoners of wars. I will conclude with my knowledge and personal opinion on this subject matter.

The War on Drugs:

In the article Jamie Fellner, senior counsel in the US Program at Human Rights Watch, brought up a lot of interesting evidence and statistics that really captured my attention. For years, I always viewed the drug policy in America, as The United States' attempt to contest the negative effects of drugs. I believed its principle was to prevent addiction in our society and issue penalties for drug users, incarceration for people convicted of possession and intent to distribute as well as providing education and different programs such as rehab centers, needle exchanges, awareness campaign, support groups and others drugs to help a person wean off the addiction. However, after reading the online article, I cannot help but question if there are other intentions behind the policy. Some of the statistics were disturbing as I quote from Fellner in the following statement. "Blacks, for example, are currently arrested on drug charges at more than three times the rates of whites. They are sentenced to state prisons with drug convictions at ten times the rate of whites (Fellner 2009). According to Fellner, "there are six times as many whites who use or sell drugs than blacks" (Fellner 2006). I always questioned the policy during the sentencing stage of a trial. When a person is convicted of selling, using, possession or purchasing cocaine in the form of rock (cooked), the sentence is almost three to one in terms of years. For decades, this disparity has been challenged to no avail. Now, let us look at this from a different perspective. The majority of "powdered" cocaine users are the white-collar middle and upper class people within our society. On the other end of the spectrum, the majority of people in the United States dealing and smoking crack cocaine are blacks and other minorities.

Police Brutality

In the United States, human rights violations committed by law enforcement and judicial departments are common. Police abuse is very serious. A Human Rights Watch report issued on Dec. 4, 2006 said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the US Department of Justice has used the material witness warrant to imprison without charge at least 70 men. Other instances of human rights violation where police abuse is incorporated are the following: On Nov. 17, 2006, Mustafa Tabatabainejad, a 23-year-old senior of the UCLA, was stunned with a Taser by a campus police officer after he refused requests to show his ID card. On the morning of Nov. 25, 2006, five officers from the New York Police Department fired 50 bullets at a car with three unarmed men inside after the car struck an unmarked police van. Twenty-one bullets struck one man, Sean Bell, who was killed while the other two were wounded. A Los Angeles police officer, Sean Joseph Meade, was caught on videotape applying a chokehold to a handcuffed 16-year-old boy inside the Central Division station. A hidden camera that had been installed in the chair recorded the officer's actions. These are just several incidents of human rights violations suffered by people of color on a routine basis. Many of these cases and cases like them have resulted in acquittals if even tried at all.

Correctional Institutions

In judicial practice, blacks are usually more severely punished than whites are. According to statistics of the National Urban League, of the sentences issued in 12 crime categories in the State Courts, sentences for black males were longer than white males in all of them. Black people account for only 12.1 percent of the US population, however, according to statistics of the US Department of Justice, at the end of 2005, about 40 percent of all male inmates sentenced to more than one year were black, and 20 percent were Latino Americans. A report released by the Human Rights Watch on Dec. 1, 2006, declared the number of black inmates was 6.6 times that of whites and the number of Latino inmates was 2.5 times that of white inmates. Statistics showed that about one out of twelve black men were in jail or prison, compared with one in 100 white men. Abuses in US prisons are widespread. The United States is the only country in the world that consent to the use of police dogs to terrify prisoners. An investigative report by the Human Rights Watch said that five state prison systems in the United States, including Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, South Dakota and Utah, permit the use of aggressive, unmuzzled dogs to terrify and even attack prisoners in efforts to extract them from their cells. It was also reported that the Florida State Prison utilized chemical agents against prisoners 238 times in 2000, 285 times in 2001, 447 in 2002, 611 in 2003 and 277 in 2004, which left 10 prisoners critically injured and others with mental diseases. The United States has the worst record in the "free world" when it comes to stripping convicted felons of the right to vote. In contrast, most European countries hold that right so dear that they bring ballot boxes into prisons. Sexual assaults in US prisons are common as well. At least 13 percent of inmates in US prisons have suffered from sexual assaults and many have suffered frequent sexual abuses. It is estimated that nearly 200,000 inmates currently in prisons were or will become victims of sexual violence. The number of prisoners who have already suffered sexual assaults over the past 20 years is likely to exceed one million.


The ethnic minorities are at the bottom of American society. Statistics released by the US Census Bureau in November 2006 indicated that according to the 2005 data, the average yearly household income was 50,622 US dollars for whites, compared with $36, 278 for Hispanics and $30,940 for blacks. White people's income was 64 percent more than the blacks and 40 percent more than the Hispanics. Three-fourths of white households owned their homes in 2005, compared with 46 percent of black households and 48 percent of Hispanic households. The poverty rate for whites was 8.3 percent in 2005, while the rates were 24.9 percent for blacks and 21.8 percent for Hispanics. Nearly one in five Hispanics lacked sufficient access to nutritious food and one in twenty regularly went hungry. Blacks took up 42 percent of all the homeless people in the United States. African-Americans and other ethnic minorities have been subject to discrimination in employment and workplace. The unemployment rate of the blacks was more than twice that of the whites. According to statistics released by the US Department of Labor on Dec. 8, 2006, the unemployment rate in November 2006 was 8.6 percent for the blacks and 3.9 percent for the whites. A report released by an economic and policy research center in the United States on Dec. 15, 2006 said that biased government policies and negative coverage of the media have limited the development of the youngsters of ethnic minorities in the US. Whites are more easily considered for promotion to managerial positions than the blacks and Hispanics.

Political Prisoners

Although the government refuses to admit it, there are nearly 100 political prisoners and prisoners of war in U.S. prisons today. The movements that these people represent and stand for have gained honor, love, and respect for them. Yet the government contends that they are criminals or terrorists, and reserves for them, as well as prisoners showing leadership and political direction, the harshest treatment. Mumia Abu-Jamal is perhaps the most famous, but there are many more political prisoners and POWs in the US. President Obama is being pressured to shut down Guantanamo Bay because of the human rights of detainees there that are being violated. These individuals have been in jail for years. No charges have been filed, rights are being violated and they have yet to receive due process according to international law. Many of them have no idea why they are imprisoned. This is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. Imagine if this were to happen to innocent Americans in another country


What are human rights? Human rights are a special sort of inalienable moral entitlement. They attach to all persons equally, by virtue of their humanity, irrespective of race, nationality, or membership of any particular social group. They specify the minimum conditions for human dignity and a tolerable life (Greenburg 2001). Does the US face human rights challenges or does it deserve no criticism on human rights? The answer is a resounding yes! The United States face human right challenges. During my research on this topic, I discovered so many unethical practices of human rights violations conducted by the US that received little to no media coverage. In this paper, I have provided statistical data of human rights violation on the following topics: education, economics, and the war on drugs, correctional institutions, prison abuse and political prisoners unrightfully detained. The United States has a history of policing the rest of the world but we purposely overlook our own faults. We protest in our streets during the unfair election process in Iraq, yet in 2000, we committed the same mayhem during our elections. I love this country just as much as any red-blooded American, however, the fact stands that we are violators of the very laws that we hold other countries accountable. The topics I discussed are factual and blatant. These issues can be corrected but we attribute to much authority to politicians than we do the law. It all boils down to one word, racism, which is definitely a violation of human rights! We are supposed to be the melting pot. Lady liberty stands as a beacon of welcome, unless you are certain people of color. The disparities I discussed were not politically motivated, they are racially charged. Although these disparities affect Latinos and Native Americans, my focus is on people that look like me. America to this day is still embarrassed by its treatment of blacks during slavery, but it has done nothing to level the playing field or offered equal justice to African-Americans. Reparations have been offered to everyone the US has offended but African-Americans have yet to reap any benefits from the hard work we contributed to in building this country. Our leaders have been assasinated, locked up and ridiculed. Does the US face human rights challenges? You're damn right they do!