One of the issues that have continued to cause major rifts among the earth’s human population is the issue of racism and discrimination. In past years, ills such as apartheid, xenophobia, and intolerance, resulted in social life being disrupted and many lives being lost. In light of the degenerative effects that racism and discrimination caused, many nations undertook measures to curb these practices with the aim of creating a society where all members coexisted peacefully.
In recognition of the past wrongs that had resulted from racism and discrimination and future risks, the United Nations held a conference in 2001 in South Africa to come up with a declaration against racism. Among the issues on the discussion was slavery in America and repatriation. This conference was followed up by another conference in 2009 which was unfortunately boycotted by many nations. Klein (2009) contests that the reason for this boycott was the lack of enthusiasm by countries to tackle their racism issues.
By reviewing the essay “Minority Death Match: Jews, Blacks, and the ‘Post-Racial’ Presidency” by Naomi Klein, this paper shall argue that the United States is not doing enough to tackle the issues of race and institutionalized slavery and further propose that only by confronting the issue head-on can America hope to become a strong and united nation.
Naomi Klein: A Credible Voice
Over the years, there have been many people who have championed the cause against racism and reported on it., Klein is one of these individuals. According to her website, Naomi Klein is “an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist, and author.” (Naomiklein.org, 2010). Klein is also an activist who constantly criticizes the political system and huge corporations.
As a journalist, Klein has traveled to various parts of the world reporting from Iraq, Africa and Argentina on a myriad of social issues. This wide exposure over the years has not only made her a seasoned writer but also given her a discerning eye on the real agenda in world matters.
While most of the reporters on racial issues have some bias arising from allegiances to a particular ethnic group or government, Klein exhibits none of this, therefore, making her reports impartial. This can be visibly seen since, despite her Jewish family roots, Klein is critical of the stance taken by Israel about the Durban conference. Klein does not use herself as the “voice of authority” in her essay but rather relies on the key players in the racism debate as to the sources of her information.
For example, she expresses the views of Navanethem Pillay who was the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, therefore, giving credence to the disappointment that the boycott of the Durban II conference caused.
In addition to this, Klein gathers her information from a vast pool of sources; from the renowned BBC reporter Julian Marshal, the UN diplomats to the US preacher on the streets. This well-rounded array of sources makes Klein’s assertions authoritative since they are the result of analysis from a differing perspective.
The Two Summits
Klein’s essay is centered on the two United Nations conferences held to discuss issues of racism and discrimination. The first conference was the “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The second conference was the “Durban Review Conference” which was held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2009 and was meant to be a follow-up conference to the Durban one.
At the first conference, the UN articulated that the conference was necessitated by the growing complexity of the race issue. New tools were therefore needed to deal with racism as racial discrimination and ethnic violence “grew in complexity, therefore, becoming a bigger challenge for the international community” (World Conference Against Racism, 2001).
This first summit resulted in nations setting goals to help them fight racism both within and without their borders. Promises of action were made and practical solutions to the problems proposed. The second conference was aimed at evaluating the progress that individual nations had made towards the goals that had been set in the first conference.
In both conferences, the host country is of great relevance to the issue at hand. The first conference is held in South Africa, South Africa was an especially relevant country in which to stage a conference on Racism and Racial Discrimination since it had been in this country where African demonstrators against apartheid had been killed and many wounded in the 1980s (Sinha, 2004).
UN sanctions against the oppressive South African government of the time had resulted in the eradication of apartheid, therefore, establishing a democratic society in South Africa. The second conference was held in Switzerland, a country renowned for its neutrality hence providing the best platform from which the progress of the first conference could be evaluated in a fair manner.
Obama’s Race Problem
The election of Obama, a Black American into the presidency of the United States was hailed as a victory for the fight against racism and discrimination. As such, there were huge expectations of the role that the United States under the leadership of Obama would play in the Durban Review Conference of 2009.
In the first Durban conference, the Black Americans had demanded repatriation for the past ills of slavery and racism perpetrated against them. They had also demanded that slavery be recognized as a crime against humanity. With a new president, there was hope that the cause of that the Black activists had begun would be furthered with tangible results being achieved.
However, this was not to be the case as the Durban II conference was boycotted mostly as a result of a massive misinformation campaign by Jewish Lobby groups. Finkelsteain (2005) documents that the misinformation was so rampant to such an extent that a poll which indicated that majority of Europeans thought that the Jews still talked too much about the Holocaust was flagged as “evidence of European anti-Semitism”.
Under such a backdrop, the United States refused to attend the conference which would have paved way for changes that would have redressed matters of race and institutionalized slavery in America.
Klein (2009) accuses the Obama and his Administration of retreating from the race issue and instead adopting a “race-neutral” stance that in essence “treats people who are situated differently as if they were the same”. This is a fundamental mistake for as Bhavnani, Mirza and Meetoo (2005) assert, the real problem in our society arises from not too much multiculturalism but rather too little with leaders keeping minority groups tucked away from public undertakings.
Instead of the Obama Administration seeking to address the crises of the African-American and Latino groups, the administration has come up with unified policies that shy away from preferential treatment of minority groups.
In order to move forward, the Essay proposes that Obama should use his political position to “heal a few of the country’s racial wounds” (Klein, 2009). This can be achieved by the United States government supporting projects that target historically disadvantaged constituencies since if this group prospers the nation as a whole will reap the benefits for the same.
It is also reasoned that only by taking affirmative action can the mounting disparities between the different races be curbed therefore resulting in a more cohesive nation.
This paper set out to argue that the United States has not been doing enough to tackle the issue of race and inequality. To reinforce this assertion, this paper has reviewed an article by Naomi Klein, an authoritative author, and activist on racial issues.
From the discussions presented in this paper, it is clear that the Durban II conference which the United States boycotted would have had immensely positive effects on the struggle against racism in America. However, the current administration can do a lot to deal with the matter of race resulting in the United States as a society moving forward.
Bhavnani, R., Mirza, H. S. & Meetoo, V. (2005). Tackling the Roots of Racism: Lessons for Success. The Policy Press.
Finkelstein, G. N. (2005). Beyond Chutzpah: on the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. University of California Press.
Klein, N. (2009). Minority Death Match; Jews, Blacks, and the “Post-Racial” Presidency. Harper’s Magazine.
Sinha, P. C. (2004). Encyclopedia Of Social Welfare, Justice And Human Rights. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.
United Nations World Conference on Racism, (2001). Basic Information – World Conference Against Racism. Web.