It is common for nations where mass atrocities have taken place to engage in the process of reparation and repair. This process happened in Germany after the Holocaust, South Africa after apartheid, and here in the United States, forty years after the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. As a result, international human rights bodies have sought to lend their expertise to the process, often by holding hearings and publishing international guidelines on the steps necessary to effectively administer a program for reparations.
Now is time for those same human rights bodies to add their expertise to the ongoing conversation around reparations for descendants of African slaves in the United States. That’s the fundamental assumption that guided our decision to request today’s hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other forms of structural racial discrimination, in the United States.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, founded in 1959 by nations across the Western Hemisphere, has specifically been involved in such work, holding hearings and publishing international guidelines on the steps necessary to effectively administer a program for reparations. It did so after mass human rights violations in Columbia and Chile, leading to both countries’ implementation of these initiatives. In March, the commission released “Police Violence Against Afro-descendants in the United States,” a report that recommended reparations here in the United States to address the structure of the racial discrimination that underlies our current system of policing.