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United States Report on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Racial Discrimination, Initial Report of the United States of America to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, September 2000



       A.  Land and People
       B.  General Political Structure
       C.  General Legal Framework
       D.  Information and Publicity
       E.  Factors Affecting Implementation



In accordance with the Committee's guidelines, the following sections provide general information about the land and people, the political and legal structure, and the status of civil and human rights in the United States. Additional background information on these subjects can be found in the Initial Report of the United States to the Human Rights Committee under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (HRI/CORE/I/Add. 49 and CCPR/C/81/Add.4) submitted in July 1994.

A.  Land and People

The United States of America is a federal republic of 50 states, together with a number of commonwealths, territories and possessions. The District of Columbia -- a federal enclave -- is the seat of the national government. The 50 states include 48 contiguous states, which span the North American continent, and the states of Alaska and Hawaii. As reported in the 1990 census, the United States had a land area of 9.2 million square kilometers, a population of 249 million, and an average population density of 27 per square kilometer.

There are several outlying areas under U.S. jurisdiction. These include Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands of the United States, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and several very small islands. In 1990, the outlying areas of the United States had a land area of 11,000 square kilometers and a population of 3.9 million. The U.S. population living abroad was not enumerated as part of the 1990 census; however, administrative data from U.S. government agencies indicate that a total of 923,000 federal employees and their dependents lived abroad in 1990.

The population of the United States increased from 249 million on April 1, 1990, to an estimated 273 million on July 1, 1999, yielding an average annual increase of about 1.0 percent. The population doubled from 76 million in 1900 to 152 million in 1950 and, based on a projection of 275 million for 2000, will increase slightly more than 80 percent from 1950 to 2000.

The United States is an increasingly diverse society. Virtually every national, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious group in the world is represented among its population. Federal statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau recognize four racial categories: White (a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa); Black (a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa); American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut (a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America -- including Central America); Asian or Pacific Islander (a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent or in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands); and two ethnic categories: Hispanic origin (a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race) and not of Hispanic origin [note 2]. Members of each of the racial categories may belong to either of the ethnic categories.

The United States recognizes that these racial and ethnic classifications are by no means perfect. Indeed, the people of the U.S. struggle with issues of racial and ethnic identity, continually re-evaluating both the question, "What is race?" and its numerous, complex responses. Racial and ethnic groups are comprised of individuals of substantial diversity, making simple classifications difficult. Placing such individuals in racial and ethnic categories can even lead to further discrimination through perpetuating stereotypes. Nevertheless, classifications -- imperfect as they may be -- are necessary for reasons of governance and administration, and the U.S. Census Bureau regularly reviews its methodology to ensure accuracy and inclusiveness.

The population of the United States is primarily White non-Hispanic; however, due partly to large-scale immigration in the past three decades, primarily from Latin America and Asia, the White non-Hispanic proportion has dropped. Between 1990 and 1999 while the White non-Hispanic population increased from 188.3 million to 196.1 million, its percentage of the total population dropped from 75.7 percent to 71.9 percent.

While the White non-Hispanic population grew by 4 percent from 1990 to 1999, each of the "minority" groups increased much more rapidly. During that period, the Asian and Pacific Islander population increased by 46 percent (from 7.5 million to 10.9 million); the Hispanic population increased by 40 percent (from 22.4 million to 31.4 million); the American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut population increased by 16 percent (from 2.1 million to 2.4 million); and the Black population increased by 14 percent (from 30.5 million to 34.9 million) [note 3].

Based on population projections issued in January 2000 by the U.S. Census Bureau, the White non-Hispanic proportion of the U.S. population will have declined to 53 percent of a projected total population of 404 million by the year 2050. These projections indicate a Hispanic population in 2050 of 24 percent; a Black population of 15 percent; an Asian and Pacific Islander population of 9.3 percent; and an American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut population of 1.1 percent [note 4].

The results of the 1990 census showed that the distribution of the U.S. population by urban residence and region of the country varied considerably by race and ethnicity. Blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to live in large urban areas than are non-Hispanic Whites. In 1990, 75 percent of the U.S. population lived in urban areas, defined generally as all places (incorporated or unincorporated) of 2,500 or more population. The corresponding proportions were as follows: 71 percent of the total White, non-Hispanic population lived in urban areas; 87 percent of the Black population; 56 percent of the American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut population; 95 percent of the Asian and Pacific Islander population; and 91 percent of the Hispanic population. The proportions of the population residing in urbanized areas of 1 million or more population were as follows: 38 percent of the total population lived in such areas; 32 percent of the country's White non-Hispanics lived in such areas; 51 percent of Blacks; 20 percent of American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts; 66 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders; and 61 percent of Hispanics.

Of the total population in 1990, 20 percent lived in the Northeast, 24 percent in the Midwest, 34 percent in the South, and 21 percent in the West. However, over one-half of the Black population (53 percent) lived in the South, despite massive migration to other regions of the country during the 20th century. Other minority groups were concentrated in the West, including 48 percent of American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts; 56 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders; and 45 percent of Hispanics.

Historically, immigration has had a profound effect on the culture of the United States, and immigration continues to be a driving force in the diversification of the population today. Between 1990 and 1997, the foreign-born population increased from 19.8 million to an estimated 25.8 million, or from 7.9 percent to 9.7 percent of the population. This continues an upward trend since 1970 when the foreign-born population reached a 20th century low of 9.6 million, or 4.7 percent of the population. In the first half of the 20th century, the proportion of the foreign-born population peaked at 14.7 percent in 1910, and the number of foreign-born peaked at 14.2 million in 1930.

From 1990 to 1997, the foreign-born population increased sharply from Latin America (8.4 million to 13.1 million) and from Asia (5.0 million to 6.8 million). During this same period, the foreign-born population from Europe did not change significantly (4.4 million to 4.3 million). The proportion of the foreign-born population from Europe, historically the primary source of immigration to the United States, dropped from 62 percent in 1970 to 23 percent in 1990 and to 17 percent in 1997.

In 1997, 7.0 million, or 28 percent, of the foreign-born population in the United States was from Mexico, up from 4.3 million, or 23 percent, of the foreign-born population in 1990. The estimated foreign-born population from Mexico in 1997 was about equal to the estimated foreign-born population from the other nine leading countries combined: the Philippines (1,132,000), China (1,107,000), Cuba (913,000), Vietnam (770,000), India (748,000), the Soviet Union prior to its division into 12 independent republics (734,000), the Dominican Republic (632,000), El Salvador ( 607,000), and the United Kingdom (606,000).

These estimates suggest that of the 10 leading countries of birth of the United States foreign-born population in 1997, four are in Latin America, four are in Asia, and two are in Europe. In 1970, the ten leading countries included seven in Europe (Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Poland, the Soviet Union, Ireland, and Austria), Canada, Mexico, and Cuba.

Because of large-scale immigration to the United States in recent decades, many U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home and are not fluent in English. The 1990 census revealed that among the 230 million individuals five years of age and over, 31.8 million spoke a language other than English at home. Among these, 17.9 million spoke English "very well," 7.3 spoke English "well," 4.8 million spoke English "not well," and 1.8 million spoke English "not at all."

Of the 92 million households enumerated in the 1990 census, 2.9 million were "linguistically isolated." These were defined as households in which no person 14 years and over spoke only English at home or spoke a language other than English at home and also spoke English "very well."

Of the 31.8 million individuals who spoke a language other than English at home in 1990, 17.3 million spoke Spanish, 8.8 million spoke other Indo-European languages, 4.5 million spoke Asian and Pacific Island languages, and 1.2 million spoke other languages. In addition to Spanish, which accounted for 54 percent of non-English languages, the leading languages spoken at home by numbers of speakers were French (1,930,000), German (1,548,000), Chinese (1,319,000), Italian (1,309,000), Tagalog (843,000), Polish (723,000), Korean (626,000), and Vietnamese (507,000).

B.   General Political Structure

At the national level, the U.S. Constitution establishes a democratic system of governance and guarantees a republican system at the state and local level. It establishes the will of the people as the basis of governmental legitimacy.

The Federal government consists of three branches: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The executive branch is headed by the President, who is elected for a term of four years. The President has broad powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the Federal government, including the various executive departments and agencies. The President is charged with "taking care" that the laws are faithfully executed.

The U.S. Constitution vests legislative powers in the Congress, which consists of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate is made up of 100 Senators; two elected from each state to six-year terms. Senate terms are staggered so that one third of the Senators are elected every two years. The U.S. House of Representatives is made up of 435 members, each of whom is elected to a two-year term from a single member congressional district. House seats are allotted to each state on the basis of population. The third branch consists of a system of independent federal courts headed by the Supreme Court of the United States and including subordinate appellate and trial courts throughout the country. Federal judges are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. That means that Presidential appointments to the federal bench must be approved by a majority vote of the Senate. The power of the federal judiciary extends to civil actions for money damages and other forms of redress, such as injunctive relief, as well as to criminal cases arising under federal law. The Constitution safeguards judicial independence by providing that federal judges shall hold office during "good behavior" -- in practice, until they die, retire or resign.

At the state level, this tripartite governmental structure is replicated, with each state having its own constitution and executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The state governor acts as head of the executive; all states have two legislative houses (except Nebraska's, which has only one); and most state court systems mirror the federal, with at least three levels. One important difference is that state judges are often elected rather than appointed by the state's chief executive. Most states are divided into counties, and areas of population concentration are incorporated into municipalities or other forms of local government (cities, towns, townships, boroughs, parishes or villages). In addition, states are divided into school and special service districts to provide education and various other public services (e.g., water, sewer, fire and emergency, higher education, hospital services, transportation). The result is that literally hundreds of governmental entities and jurisdictions exist at the state and local levels; for the most part, the leaders of these entities are elected, although some are appointed by others who are elected.

A significant number of U.S. citizens live in areas outside the 50 states, yet within the political and legal framework of the United States. These areas include: the District of Columbia (seat of the national government and a federal enclave); the insular areas of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Johnston, Midway, Palmyra and Wake Atolls. The specific governmental framework for each is largely determined by the area's historical relationship with the United States.

A special relationship exists between the U.S. government and Native Americans. While the diversity of the indigenous North American population makes generalizations difficult (there are more than 550 federally recognized American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes and groups, speaking more than 150 different languages), many enjoy considerable governmental autonomy on reservations or other Indian lands and Alaska villages. The provision of "federal recognition" reflects the principle of government-to-government relations founded under U.S. law and practice. Other tribal groups have over time been assimilated into local society.

Since 1924, Native Americans have enjoyed the protections of the U.S. Constitution when not on their own reservations. When on their own reservations, Native Americans are subject to Tribal law, the Indian Major Crimes Act and the Indian Civil Rights Act which sets forth the essential protections of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. The protections afforded to Native Americans while on their own reservations are consistent with U.S. Constitutional guarantees.

The U.S. government has a similar relationship with Native Hawaiians. Since Hawaii's admission into the Union, Congress has endeavored to protect and improve the welfare of Native Hawaiians by establishing special programs in the areas of health care, education, employment, and loans; and enacting statutes to preserve Native Hawaiian culture, language, and history. A recent case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rice v. Cayetano, 527 U.S. 1061, 120 S.Ct. 31 (1999), has cast doubt on the Congress' authority to legislate in a manner that grants Native Hawaiian preferences. The Court's decision in Rice has thus prompted spirited debate over the relationship between Native Hawaiians and the U.S. government, and indeed, the U.S. Departments of Interior and Justice are in the process of preparing a report on a reconciliation process between the Federal government and Native Hawaiians initiated by Senator Daniel K. Akaka in 1999.

C.   General Legal Framework

The U.S. Constitution is the central instrument of government and the supreme law of the land. Adopted in 1789, it is the world's oldest national, written constitution still in force. Together with its twenty-seven amendments (the first ten are known as the "Bill of Rights"), the Constitution guarantees the essential rights and freedoms of all individuals within the jurisdiction of the United States. State constitutions and laws may, and sometimes do, provide stronger protections than federal law (for example, in the area of freedom of religion and expression), but none may fall below the basic guarantees of the federal Constitution.

Under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, duly ratified treaties become part of the "supreme law of the land" with a legal status equivalent to enacted federal statutes. As such, they prevail over previously enacted federal law (to the extent of any conflict) and over any inconsistent state or local law. Since existing U.S. law -- through constitutional and statutory protections against, and remedies for, racial discrimination -- complies with obligations assumed by the United States under the Convention, it was deemed unnecessary, at the time of ratification, to propose implementing legislation.

The essential guarantees of human rights and fundamental freedoms within the United States are set forth in the U.S. Constitution and statutes of the United States, as well as the constitutions and statutes of the U.S. states and other constituent units. In practice, the enforcement of these guarantees ultimately depends on the existence of an independent judiciary with the power to invalidate acts of the other branches of government that conflict with those guarantees. Maintenance of a republican form of government with vigorous democratic traditions, popularly elected executives and legislatures, and the deeply-rooted legal protections of freedoms of opinion, expression, religion and the press, all contribute to the protection of human rights against governmental limitation and encroachment.

There is no single statute, institution or mechanism in the United States by which internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed or enforced. Rather, domestic law provides extensive protections through various Constitutional provisions and statutes which typically create administrative and judicial remedies at both the federal and state levels. Responsibility for identifying violations and enforcing compliance is therefore shared among the various branches at all levels of government. In practice, a major impetus for the protection of statutory and Constitutional rights derives from individual remedial actions, advocacy by non-governmental organizations, legislative and federal agency monitoring and oversight, and the ameliorative efforts of a free and energetic press.

Several parts of the Federal government bear special responsibilities for matters directly relevant to this Convention:

U.S. Department of Justice. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice serves as the chief civil rights enforcement agency for the Federal government, charged with the effective enforcement of federal civil rights laws, in particular the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Civil Rights Division also exercises the authority given to the Attorney General under Executive Order No. 12250 to ensure consistent and effective enforcement of laws prohibiting, among other things, discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, or sex in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, as well as on the basis of disability in programs receiving federal financial assistance and conducted by federal agencies. The Division also enforces laws prohibiting patterns or practices of police misconduct (42 U.S.C. sec. 14141), protecting the constitutional and federal statutory rights of persons confined to certain institutions owned or operated by state or local governments, such as prisons, jails, nursing homes, and mental health facilities (the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA)), and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Housing Act (the Department of Justice shares responsibility for administration of the latter statute with the Department of Housing and Urban Development). Under these various statutes, the Division may bring civil actions to enjoin acts or patterns of conduct that violate constitutional rights. In its civil cases, the Justice Department's responsibilities permit it to go to federal court to seek broad remedial orders that may include compensatory damages, civil penalties, injunctive relief and, in some cases, punitive damages.

The Division also has authority to prosecute criminally those who use force or threat of force to violate a person's rights to non-discrimination (so called "hate crimes") and state and local law enforcement officers who engage in the use of excessive force (18 U.S.C sec. 242).

The Community Relations Service (CRS), an independent agency within the Justice Department, is the Federal government's "peacemaker" for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS is the only federal agency whose purpose is to assist state and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, conflicts and civil disorders, and in restoring racial stability and harmony.

Within the Department of Justice, the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices enforces prohibitions against citizenship status discrimination in employment, national origin discrimination by small employers, and document abuse associated with employer sanctions.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an independent, bi-partisan agency within the executive branch established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has enforcement and compliance responsibilities concerning the elimination of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age and disability by private and public employers in all aspects of the employment relationship.

Since its inception, the EEOC has obtained over $2.2 billion in monetary benefits for parties bringing discrimination charges through administrative actions, i.e., through conciliation and settlement. In 1999 alone, the EEOC obtained over $210 million in these actions.

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. While not an enforcement agency, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights also plays an important role in safeguarding the rights recognized by the Convention. The Commission has a broad mandate to monitor and report on the status of civil rights protections in the United States. As an independent, bipartisan agency, it collects information on discrimination or denials of equal protection of the laws because of race, color, and national origin, evaluates federal laws, and makes recommendations to the President and the Congress based on the effectiveness of governmental equal opportunity and civil rights programs.

Other federal departments and agencies also have important enforcement responsibilities. For example:

  • Within the Department of Education, the Office for Civil Rights is charged with administering and enforcing civil rights laws related to education, including desegregation of the country's elementary and secondary schools. This office gives particular attention to discrimination against minorities in special education and remedial courses, in math and science and advanced placement courses, in the use of tests and assessments, and in higher education admissions.


  • The Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity within the Department of Housing and Urban Development administers the laws prohibiting discrimination in public and private housing and ensures equal opportunity in all community development programs. HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity administers two grant programs: the Fair Housing Assistance program (which provides financial assistance to supplement enforcement activities at the state and local levels) and the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (a competitive grant program to provide funding to private fair housing groups).


  • The Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Health and Human Services administers civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination in federally-assisted health and human services programs, with particular emphasis on areas of managed care, quality of health care, inter-ethnic adoption, services to limited English proficient persons, and welfare reform.


  • Within the Department of Labor, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs administers laws prohibiting discrimination and requiring affirmative action in employment by Federal contractors and subcontractors on the bases of race, gender, national origin and other grounds. The Department's Civil Rights Center enforces laws prohibiting discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance from the Department of Labor on the bases of race, religion, national origin, gender, disability and other grounds.


  • Within the Department of Agriculture, civil rights programs are aimed at ensuring that all USDA customers are treated fairly and equitably. In 1997, USDA appointed a Civil Rights Action Team to address allegations of discrimination against minority farmers in the United States. As a result of its investigations, the Team concluded that minority farmers had indeed lost significant amounts of land and potential farm income as a result of discriminatory practices by the USDA. That same year, a major class action lawsuit was filed against the United States and the USDA alleging widespread discrimination against Black farmers in the United States. As a result of the lawsuit, a consent decree has been entered, establishing a claims mechanism through which individual class members can resolve their complaints in an expeditious and fair manner. To date, 11,120 Black farmers have received over $323 million in compensation.


  • The Office for Equal Opportunity within the Department of the Interior administers laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, and national origin in federally assisted and federal employment programs. These programs ensure that state and local park, recreation, fishing, hunting, and historic preservation programs and activities are provided to individuals in the United States on an equal opportunity basis regardless of race, color, or national origin. In addition, this office enforces compliance with civil rights laws with respect to employment in state natural resource programs and administers civil rights laws prohibiting unlawful discrimination against employees of, and applicants for employment with, the Department of Interior.


  • Within the Department of Defense, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Equal Opportunity is responsible for implementing and monitoring the Department's civilian and military equal opportunity/affirmative action plan goals and objectives.
In addition to the agencies listed, virtually all federal agencies that provide federal financial assistance have civil rights offices whose responsibility it is to ensure that recipients of that assistance do not engage in unlawful discrimination. This includes the major providers of federal assistance such as the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Transportation, and Veterans' Affairs. All twenty-eight federal providers of federal assistance are responsible for ensuring that their recipients do not discriminate, and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is responsible for ensuring that all Federal funding agencies effectively and consistently enforce their non-discrimination responsibilities.

Furthermore, a number of federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice and Labor have established offices or points of contact to specifically address issues affecting Native Americans, their lands and resources. Also, many of these agencies have developed agency-wide policies, based on the concepts of self-governance, the federal trust responsibility, consultation and the government-to-government relationship to guide their work with Indian tribes.

In the U.S. Congress, special emphasis has long been given to matters involving discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, and ethnicity. In addition to the oversight functions of various standing committees in both Houses (such as Judiciary, Indian Affairs, and Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies), attention is focused through other mechanisms such as the Asian Pacific, Black, Hispanic, Native American and Human Rights Caucuses.

D.   Information and Publicity

In the United States, information about human rights is readily available. As a general matter, people are well-informed about their civil and political rights, including the rights of equal protection, due process, and non-discrimination. The scope, meaning and enforcement of individual rights are openly and vigorously discussed in the media, freely debated within the various political parties and representative institutions, and litigated before the courts at all levels.

Information about human rights treaties is freely and readily available to any interested person in the United States. The constitutional requirement that the U.S. Senate give its advice and consent to ratification of a treaty ensures that there is a public record of its consideration, typically on the basis of a formal transmittal by the President, a record of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearing and report to the full Senate, and the action of the Senate itself. Moreover, the text of any treaty, whether or not the United States is a party, can be readily obtained from any number of sources, including the Library of Congress, public libraries, educational institutions and non-governmental organizations.

Increasingly, over the last few years information about human rights, civil rights and related subjects has become available on the Internet. For example, the Department of Justice web site http://www.usdoj.gov includes information about the Civil Rights Division, links to all sections of the Division that include information about settlements, high profile cases, the laws enforced by each section, contact information for each section, information on special topics, selected judicial decisions, and legal briefs filed by the Division. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights web site http://www.usccr.gov includes a description of the Commission's duties, function and composition as well as information on how to file complaints and contact the Commission. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission web site http://www.eeoc.gov includes guidance directed to employers and employees, information about the EEOC, enforcement statistics, and selected civil rights laws, regulations and guidance. Individuals can also find helpful information at the fair housing section of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development web site http://www.hud.gov/fairhsg1.html where individuals can file housing discrimination complaints on-line. The Department of Interior Diversity web site http://www.doi.gov/diversity includes information on all Department of Interior civil rights policies and programs, special employment programs, complaint processing procedures for employees and applicants and for individuals filing complaints against federally-assisted state agency programs. The Department of Interior's Office of Insular Affairs operates a web site http://www.doi.gov/oia that includes fact sheets detailing the Federal government's responsibilities to and protection of the indigenous peoples of the U.S. insular areas of the United States. A comprehensive listing of Federal government web sites providing information about the civil rights enforcement efforts of agencies providing federal financial assistance can be found at the Internet site of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division's Coordination and Review Section, http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/cor/index.htm. Numerous other web sites, operated by U.S. government agencies as well as by NGOs, include helpful information on civil rights, racial discrimination and legal remedies in the United States.

In the case of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the record of its consideration is set forth in several official documents, including, inter alia, the Initial Message from the President transmitting the Convention to the Senate on February 23, 1978 (Sen. Exec. Doc. 95-C); the printed record of the public hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 11, 1994 (S. Hrg. 103-659); the Report and Recommendation of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dated June 2, 1994 (Sen. Exec. Rep. 103-29), and the record of consideration on the floor of the Senate (Cong. Rec. S6601, daily ed. June 8, 1994).

At the May 1994 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, representatives of various non-governmental organizations involved in human rights, as well as concerned academics and legal practitioners, testified in person or submitted written comments for consideration by the committee and for inclusion in its formal records. The Administration was represented by the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and the Legal Adviser of the Department of State. As part of the United States' program to increase public awareness of human rights obligations, this Report will be published and made available to the public through the Government Printing Office and the depositary library system, as was done with the U.S. rs on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Copies of the Report and the Convention will also be widely distributed within the executive branch of the U.S. government and to federal judicial authorities, as well as to relevant state officials, state and local bar associations, and non-governmental human rights organizations. The Report and Convention will also be available on the Department of State web site at http://www.state.gov.

E.   Factors Affecting Implementation

Although there has been significant progress in the improvement of race relations in the United States over the past half-century, serious obstacles remain to be overcome. Overt discrimination is far less pervasive than it was thirty years ago, yet more subtle forms of discrimination against minority individuals and groups persists in American society. In its contemporary dimensions discrimination takes a variety of forms, some more subtle and elusive than others. Among the principal causative factors are:

  • The persistence of attitudes, policies and practices reflecting a legacy of segregation, ignorance, stereotyping, discrimination and disparities in opportunity and achievement.


  • Inadequate enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws due to under-funding of federal and state civil rights agencies. Resource limitations cause delays in investigation, compliance review, technical assistance and enforcement.


  • Ineffective use and dissemination of data on racial and ethnic issues and information on civil rights protection. Too many persons do not believe that racial discrimination is a common or active form of mistreatment and are therefore less supportive of race conscious remedial actions. Moreover, many minority groups do not have adequate information about government-funded programs and activities because information is not distributed in languages they can understand in often remote areas throughout the United States. This is particularly true for some American Indian and Alaska Native populations.


  • Economic disadvantage. In the contemporary United States, persons belonging to minority groups are disproportionately at the bottom of the income distribution curve. While it is inaccurate to equate minority status with poverty, members of minority groups are nonetheless more likely to be poor than are non-minorities. It is also true, in the United States as elsewhere, that almost every form of disease and disability is more prevalent among the poor, that the poor face higher levels of unemployment, that they achieve lower educational levels, that they are more frequently victimized by crime, and that they tend to live in environments (both urban and rural) which exacerbate these problems.


  • Persistent discrimination in employment and labor relations, especially in the areas of hiring, salary and compensation, but also in tenure, training, promotion, layoff and in the work environment generally. Over the past few years, for example, complaints have been leveled against several major employers including Texaco, Shoney's, General Motors, Pitney Bowes and Avis.


  • Continued segregation and discrimination in housing, rental and sales of homes, public accommodation and consumer goods. Even where civil rights laws prohibit segregation and discrimination in these areas, such practices continue.


  • Lack of equal access to business capital and credit markets. Minorities continue to have difficulty raising capital or securing loans to finance a business. Without sufficient access to such financial markets, minority entrepreneurs will continue to start and grow businesses at a much slower rate than their White counterparts. This problem further lessens the prospects of wealth creation in under-served communities, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty that disproportionately affects minorities.


  • Lack of access to technology and high technology skills. Despite the rapid development of the Internet and other information technologies, minorities have participated at lower rates in the so-called "new economy" because they lack the skills necessary to fill the numerous technology jobs created everyday. Technology-based jobs are projected to be a large percentage of new jobs that will be created over the next ten years. If minorities are not trained with information technology skills, a large number of workers will be unable to benefit from the tremendous wealth generated by this segment of the economy.


  • Lack of educational opportunities. Largely because of the persistence of residential segregation and so-called "White flight" from the public school systems in many larger urban areas, minorities often attend comparatively under-funded (and thus lower-quality) primary and secondary schools. Thus minority children are often less prepared to compete for slots in competitive universities and jobs. While efforts to dismantle segregation in our nation's schools have enjoyed some success, segregation remains a problem both in and among our schools, especially given roll-backs in affirmative action programs.


  • Discrimination in the criminal justice system. The negative overall impact of the criminal justice system on Blacks, Hispanics and members of other minority groups is another barrier to our achieving the goals of the Convention. Various studies indicate that members of minority groups, especially Blacks and Hispanics, may be disproportionately subject to adverse treatment throughout the criminal justice process. High incarceration rates for minorities have led to the political disenfranchisement of a significant segment of the U.S. population. Moreover, many have raised concerns that incidents of police brutality seem to target disproportionately individuals belonging to racial or ethnic minorities.


  • Disadvantages for women and children of racial minorities. Often, the consequences of racism and racial discrimination are heightened for women and children. Whether in the criminal justice system, education, employment or health care, women and children suffer discrimination disproportionately. Startlingly high incarceration rates for minority women and children have placed them at a substantial social, economic and political disadvantage.


  • Health care. Persons belonging to minority groups tend to have less adequate access to health insurance and health care. Historically, ethnic and racial minorities were excluded from obtaining private insurance, and although such discriminatory practices are now prohibited by law, statistics continue to reflect that persons belonging to minority groups, particularly the poor, are less likely to have adequate health insurance than White persons. Racial and ethnic minorities also appear to have suffered disproportionately the effects of major epidemics like AIDS. For example, in 1999, 54 percent of new cases of HIV infection occurred among Blacks, even though they make up less than 15 percent of the population.


  • Voting. While the Voting Rights Act has made it possible for Blacks and Hispanics to obtain an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice to local, state, and federal office, the federal courts -- since the early 1990s -- have become more restrictive in permitting race-conscious apportionment of voting districts. Thus, many of the gains made by minority voters in the 1970s and 1980s have been jeopardized.


  • Discrimination against immigrants. Whether legal or illegal, recent immigrants often encounter discrimination in employment, education and housing as a result of persistent racism and xenophobia. Some also contend that U.S. immigration law and policy is either implicitly or explicitly based on improper racial, ethnic and national criteria. Language barriers have also created difficulties of access, inter alia, to health care, education and voting rights for some.


Specific examples of these shortcomings include the following incidents:
  • On June 8, 1998, James Byrd, Jr., a Black man, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas. Two of the three young White men who killed James Byrd were connected with White supremacist groups. The three men accused of committing this crime were successfully prosecuted under Texas law by the state of Texas, with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice. Two received the death penalty; the third was sentenced to life imprisonment.


  • One of the most high-profile cases in recent years was the videotaped beating of Rodney King by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. After the police officers were acquitted on state charges, riots broke out in Los Angeles and in other cities throughout the country. Subsequent to these acquittals, however, two of the four officers involved were convicted on federal charges and sentenced to thirty months in prison.


  • In 1999, Black guests of the Adams Mark Hotel during the Black College Reunion in Daytona Beach, Florida were allegedly mistreated, including being required to wear wrist bands identifying them as guests of the hotel, while White guests did not receive such treatment. The Department of Justice filed suit against the hotel, and pursuant to a proposed settlement, the hotel chain will agree, inter alia, to adopt a comprehensive plan to ensure every hotel will be operated in a non-discriminatory fashion.


  • The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has initiated several investigations into allegations of discriminatory highway traffic stops and discriminatory stops of persons travelling in urban areas (so-called "racial profiling") by state and local law enforcement authorities. Its investigation of the New Jersey state police led to a lawsuit and consent decree emphasizing non-discrimination in policy and practices as well as improved data collection, training, supervision and monitoring of officers. A similar agreement was reached with the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department.


  • In Jackson, Mississippi more than 200 Blacks were allegedly denied home improvement loans even though they received passing scores on credit scoring systems. Black applicants were more than three times more likely to have their loan applications denied than similarly situated White applicants. The United States filed a lawsuit, which was settled in the amount of $3 million, to be paid to Black applicants who had been denied loans.


  • Throughout the United States, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and professional sports teams use depictions of Native Americans as mascots. Native American groups have challenged these uses on the basis that they are demeaning and offensive.
     2.   The classification of the population by race and ethnicity is based on a statistical standard issued by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 1977. OMB issued a revised standard in 1997. Under the revised standard, individuals may report more than one race; the Asian and Pacific Islander category is divided into two categories; and there are changes in terminology. The five racial categories are: White, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The two ethnic categories are Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. Data on the population by race and ethnicity from the 2000 census will reflect the 1997 standard and will become available in 2001.

     3.   Since the population of Hispanic origin may be of any race, the four minority groups are not mutually exclusive. In 1999, 2.8 million individuals were classified in two minority groups, including 1.8 million Black and Hispanic; 0.4 million American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut, and Hispanic; and 0.6 million Asian and Pacific Islander and Hispanic.

     4.   Because the United States uses an acknowledgment process through which Native American tribes are given federal recognition (making them eligible to receive services and benefits provided to Native Americans), this figure may not reflect the number of people of Native American ancestry who do not belong to a federally recognized tribe.


Same level:
Introduction ] [ General Report ] Legal Prohibition ] U.S. Reservations, Understandings and Declarations ] Compliance with Specific Articles ] Article 1 - Racial Discrimination ] Article 2 ] Art 3 Condemn Racial Segregation and Apartheid ] Article 4 Eliminate Incitements or Acts of Discrimination ] Article 5 Equality Under the Law ] Article 6 Assure Effective Protection and Remedies ] Article 7 Adopt Measures ] Conclusion ]
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