Fritz Pointer

Director of Global Outreach, Democratic World Federalists

Taking Black Lives Matter to the UN

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has been used by the US to justify brutal invasions of countries like Iraq and Libya. But perhaps the UN could use R2P in a positive way, to help recognize the need to protect black people being killed globally and imprisoned by the United States government authorities.


Black Lives Matter (BLM) is, arguably, the most recognizable, well-known, black organization in the United States, today. We Democratic World Federalists strongly and sincerely want to encourage our organization to add one plank of mutual concern and advocacy to your platform. That is, put simply, to take up the mantel laid down by Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E.B. DuBois and Walter White in 1946 when they submitted a book-length petition to the UN on behalf of African Americans: “An Appeal to the World: A Statement on the Denial of Human Rights to Minorities in the Case of Citizens of African Descent in the United States of America and an Appeal to the United Nations for Redress.” both the National Negro Congress and the NAACP petitions were buried in United Nations committees.

Then, in 1951 Paul Robeson and William Patterson in 1951, submitted a petition to the United Nations on behalf of Black Americans in the interest of peace and democracy, charging the Government of the United States of America with violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

More than sixty years ago, the Civil Rights Congress engaged in a campaign to hold the United States accountable for genocide against African Americans. We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of The United States against the Negro People (1951) is as relevant today as it was in its own time.

For example, Robeson’s and Patterson’s petition states:

Now there is not a great American city from New York to Cleveland or Detroit, from Washington, the nation’s capital, to Chicago, from Memphis to Atlanta or Birmingham, from New Orleans to Los Angeles, that is not disgraced by the wanton killing  of innocent Black people.  It is no longer a sectional phenomenon.

Once the classic method of lynching was the rope.  Now it is the policeman’s bullet…We submit that the evidence suggests that the killing of Black people has become police policy in the United States, and that police policy is the most practical expression of government policy.

Then in 1965, three weeks before he was to speak at the UN, Malcolm X was assassinated. He too saw the need to appeal to the United Nations, Malcolm X:

“the American black man needs to recognize that he has a strong, airtight case to take the United States before the United Nations on a formal accusation of ‘denial of human rights’ – and that if Angola and South Africa are precedent cases, then there would be no easy way that the U.S. could escape being censured, right on its own home ground (Autobiography, 382).  He also said, relevant to our current “outreach” that: “Every day, the black African heads of state should be receiving direct accounts of the latest developments in the American black man’s struggle (e.g. mass incarceration and an unarmed black man murdered by police every 28 hours) – instead of the U.S. State Department’s releases to Africans which always imply that the American black man’s struggle is being solved” (378).

The seventy-eight page petition was delivered to the United Nations in Paris in December 1951. It is now 2018. What has changed? The petition sought to demonstrate that the government of the United States was in violation of the U.N. Genocide Convention. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide had been adopted in 1948 in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
Every word voiced by Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson against the monstrous Nazi beasts, with which he opened the Nuremberg trials, applies with equal weight, we believe, to those who are guilty of the crimes set forth in this 1951 petition. The litany of what it terms “Causes Celebres” strikes an eerily familiar chord, as it wants the General Assembly to know of “the martyred Martinsville Seven, who died in Virginia’s electric chair for a rape they never committed, in a state that has never executed a white man for that offense;” and, of the Trenton Six, of Paul Washington, the Daniels cousins, Jerry Newsom, Wesley Robert Wells, of Rosalee Ingram, of John Derrick, of Lieutenant Gilbert…the Freeport slaughter, the Monroe killings” etc. And, that was 1951. The petition documented 153 murders and 344 other violent assaults, and numerous other human rights abuses against black Americans from 1945 to 1951. The UN took no action on the petition.
Now, our 2018 “Causes Celebres”: Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Michael Brown, Trevon Martin, Ranisha McBride, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Laquan McDonald, etc. Killing Black people is still police policy in the United States.
The Genocide Convention defined “genocide” as “acts committed to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, or religious group as such.” These “acts” included “killing members of the group,” “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” In addition to the “attempt to commit genocide,” other punishable offenses defined by the Convention included “conspiracy to commit genocide,” “direct and public incitement to commit genocide,” and “complicity in genocide.” Another distinctive feature of the Genocide Convention was that it made the crime of genocide a punishable offense under International Law whether it was committed “in time of peace or in time of war.”

As in 1946, 1951 and 1965, we Democratic World Federalists urge BLM to petition the United Nations to act and to call the government of the United States to account. This time under the definition of The Responsibility to Protect (R2P): a political commitment unanimously adopted by all members of the United Nations General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit and articulated in paragraphs 138-139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, in summary: (138) Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. (139) The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
The mass incarceration of Black people in the United States, as documented by Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) “has emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow” (4). The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. In Washington, D.C., our nations capitol, it is estimated that three out of four black men…can expect to serve time in prison.
And, what should the United Nations and the world make of the report that an unarmed black person is killed by police every 28 hours. Surely, these realities, these facts are in obvious and clear violation of The Responsibility to Protect the Black citizens of the United States. We broached this problem in the 1960s: Whom do you call when the police are beating you?
Thus, the Government of the United State, its Supreme Court, its Congress, its Executive branch, Senators, Governors, Judges as well as the various state, county and municipal governments, consciously promulgate and effectuate policies and practices which result in crimes against Black Americans and a Failure to Protect. Finally, let’s be clear: White supremacy at home makes for the massacre of people of color abroad. The police murderer and the atomic bomber are related.
We Democratic World Federalists believe that the continuance of these American crimes against Black people of the United States will strengthen those reactionary American forces driving towards World War III. So, before the US completely destroys the UN, let us remember these words of Albert Einstein: “There is no salvation for civilization, or even the human race, other than the creation of a world government.”


Nikita Mitchell, Organizing Director, Black Lives Matter – Bay Area

Shanelle Matthews, Communications Director, Black Lives Matter – Bay Area

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