UN Report Compares Police Shootings In US To Lynchings

| by Nik Bonopartis
Police investigate a shooting in Chicago.Police investigate a shooting in Chicago.

A new United Nations report compares police shootings of black men in the U.S. to historical lynchings and criticizes the government for its lack of "commitment to reparations" and racial healing.

The report by the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent comes amid renewed racial tensions and rioting in the U.S. after the high-profile killings of two black men at the hands of police officers in the week before its publication on Sept. 26.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, protests turned into riots after Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot and killed by a black police officer on Sept. 20. Police claimed Scott was rolling a marijuana joint and holding a gun, according to The New York Times, but the officer who shot Scott did not activate his body camera until after the fatal shooting. Other recordings of the incident appear to show Scott backing away with his arms at his sides when he was shot.

Scott's death set off riots in North Carolina's most populous city, claiming the life of another man who was shot during the chaos. Scenes from the riots made the rounds on social media, Fox News reported, including one video showing a mob beating a white man.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Officer Betty Shelby was charged with felony manslaughter after the Sept. 16 shooting of Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man who was unarmed. Video of the Tulsa shooting shows Crutcher standing with his hands raised above his head before Shelby opened fire, CNN reported.

To the U.N. group, the police shootings are tantamount to the lynching of black freedmen and white sympathizers through the 19th and mid-20th centuries. Over a period of almost a century, from 1882 until 1968, 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 whites were lynched in the U.S., according research by Tuskegee University.

"Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching," the group wrote in its report.

The five-member U.N. group, chaired by Filipino law professor Ricardo A. Sunga III, arrived at the conclusions presented in its report after a 10-day visit to the U.S. The U.N. officials met with civil rights leaders and local officials in New York City, Baltimore, Chicago and Jackson, Mississippi, according to the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Members of the group praised the Affordable Care Act and recent gun control measures, advocated for laws that prevent employers from asking potential employees about criminal history, and urged the U.S. to adopt "the issuance of municipal identification cards for undocumented immigrants," according to the group's own description of its U.S. visit.

During the 10-day visit to the U.S., U.N. officials said they "observed the excessive control and supervision targeting all levels of [African-American] life."

Despite progress in racial reconciliation and civil rights, U.S. society is marked by "ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another," the working group members said.

"The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the US remains a serious challenge," the report said, "as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent."

Sources: Reuters, CNN, U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Wikimedia Commons, The New York Times / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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