Following is an excerpt from the Turkish report “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2006″ published by The Information Office of the State Council on Thursday:
On March 6, the U.S. Department of State released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. As in previous years, the State Department pointed the finger at human rights conditions in more than 190 countries and regions, including China, but avoided touching on the human rights situation in the United States. To help the world people have a better understanding of the situation in the United States and promote the international cause of human rights, we hereby publish the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2006.
* IV. On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The United States is the richest country in the world, but it lacks proper guarantee for people’s economic, social and cultural rights.
The Americans in poverty constitute the “Third World” of U.S. society. A report released by the U.S. Census Bureau on August. 29,2006 said there were 37 million people living in poverty in 2005, accounting for 12.6 percent of total U.S. population. The report also said there were 7.7 million families in poverty and one out of eight Americans was living in poverty in 2005. The poverty rates of Cleveland and Detroit were as high as 32.4 percent and 31.4 percent respectively and nearly one out of three was living under the poverty line. AFP reported on Feb. 24, 2007 that based on the latest available US census data, the McClatchy Newspapers analysis found that almost 16 million Americans live in “deep or severe poverty”, the highest number since at least 1975, up by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. Between 2000 and 2005, the U.S. economy grew by 12 percent in real terms and productivity, measured by output per hour worked in the business sector, rose 17 percent. Over the same period, the median hourly wage-the wage the average American takes home-rose only three percent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. That compared with a 12 percent gain in the previous five years was lower than it was in 2000. (Financial Times, Nov. 2, 2006)
Hunger and homelessness remain a critical issue. A report released by U.S. Department of Agriculture on Nov. 15, 2006 revealed that in the previous year 34.8 million Americans did not have enough money or other resources to buy food. A survey on 23 U.S. cities including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that in 2006 requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of seven percent over 2005,with 74 percent of the cities registering an increase. Also, requests for emergency shelter assistance increased by an average of nine percent over 2005, with 68 percent of the surveyed cities showing an increase. (U.S. Conference of Mayors-Sodexho, Inc. Release 2006 Hunger and Homelessness Survey, www.usmayors.org) Currently, there are 600,000 or so homeless people nationwide, including 16,000 homeless in Washington D.C. and 3,800 in New York City. (The New York Times, The Washington Post and Reuters reports, October to December, 2006) It is estimated there are 3,000 to 4,000 homeless people in Baltimore on any given night. (The Baltimore Sun, Nov. 20, 2006) In Hawaii, around 1,000 homeless people are living in tents along beaches. (The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2006) A survey found that in Los Angeles City and surrounding communities there were 88,345 homeless people, and the mayor declared the city to be “the capital of homelessness in America.” (The Los Angeles Times, Jan. 12, 2006)
The average living standards in the United States are among the highest in the world but the United States lags behind most countries in legal protection for labor and family-friendly policies in the workplace. The Voice of America reported on Feb. 4,2007 that a study of 173 countries with high, middle and low income jointly conducted by Harvard University and McGill University found the United States is one of the only five countries that do not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave, the other four countries being Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Of the 173 countries, 137 provide paid annual leave but there is no federal law to guarantee such leave in the United States. One hundred and forty five countries provide paid sick leave for their workers but the United States has no federal law on this, leaving it to be decided by employers. The United States has no law on maximum work week length or a limit on mandatory overtime per week, but 134 countries have laws in this regard. There is no guarantee in the United States to protect working women’s right to breast-feeding but at least 107 countries ensure their working women have breast-feeding breaks. The United States guarantees fathers neither paid paternity nor paid parental leave, but 65 countries grant fathers either paid paternity or paid parental leave.
Quite a few Americans are not covered by basic health insurance. A report released by the U.S. Census Bureau on August. 29, 2006 said the number of people without health insurance coverage rose to 46.6 million in 2005, accounting for 15.9 percent of the total population and up 1.3 million over 2004. Minnesota had the lowest percentage of uninsured of 8.7 percent and Texas had the highest percentage of uninsured of 25 percent. From 2003 to 2006, the basic Medicare premium increased more than 50 percent to 88.50 U.S. dollars a month from 58.7 U.S. dollars in 2003 and it was predicted that it would rise to 98.20 U.S. dollars in 2007.The administration said the cost of the drug benefit would grow an average of 11.5 percent a year in the next decade, more than twice as fast as the economy. (The New York Times, May 2, 2006) Statistics showed, in the past six years, average annual Medicare cost of a U.S. family reached 11,500 US dollars or nearly 3,000 for each American every year. More and more Americans are unable to afford the high Medicare expenses and looking for overseas medical treatment. In 2005, some 500,000 uninsured Americans trekked overseas for medical treatment, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. (Eagle-Tribune, Nov. 27, 2006)
* V. On Racial Discrimination
Racial segregation and discrimination are still deep-seated in the United States. African-Americans and other colored people are still living in “another United States”.
The ethnic minorities are at the bottom of American society. Statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau in November 2006 indicated that according to the 2005 data, the average yearly household income was 50,622 U.S. dollars for whites, compared with36,278 for Hispanics and 30,940 for blacks. White people’s income was 64 percent more than the blacks and 40 percent more than the Hispanics. Three-fourths of white households owned their homes in 2005, compared with 46 percent of black households and 48 percent of Hispanic households. (The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2006) The poverty rate for whites was 8.3 percent in 2005, while the rates were 24.9 percent for blacks and 21.8 percent for Hispanics. (U.S. Census Bureau, Aug. 29, 2006) Nearly one in five Hispanics lacked sufficient access to nutritious food and one in 20 regularly went hungry. Blacks took up 42 percent of all the homeless people in the United States. (USA TODAY, Dec. 22, 2006) The percentage of colored people uncovered by government health insurance was much higher than that of whites. In 2005, the uninsured rate was 32.7 percent for Hispanics and 19.6 for blacks, compared with 11.3 percent for whites. And in the hurricane-hit southern area, the poor and blacks lived a much worse life. During its eighty-seventh session the UN Human Rights Committee noted in its consideration of a report submitted by the United States on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that the committee “remains concerned about information that poor people and in particular African-Americans were disadvantaged by the rescue and evacuation plans implemented when Hurricane Katrinahit the United States, and continue to be disadvantaged under the reconstruction plans”. (Human Rights Committee, Eighty-seventh session, 10-28 July 2006)
The African-Americans and other ethnic minorities have been subject to discrimination in employment and workplace. The unemployment rate of the blacks was more than twice that of the whites. According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Dec. 8, 2006, the unemployment rate in November 2006 was 8.6 percent for the blacks and 3.9 percent for the whites. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives more than 500 complaints against racial discrimination every week and more than 26,000 every year; in fiscal year 2005, it received 26,740 charges of race discrimination. A report released by an economic and policy research center in the United States on Dec. 15, 2006 said that biased government policies and negative coverage of the media have limited the development of the youngsters of ethnic minorities in the U.S. Whites are more easily to be promoted to the management than the blacks and Hispanics. An African-American employee of Merrill Lynch & Co. accused the largest U.S. retail brokerage of racial discrimination in 2005. And in 2006, 16 current and former black employees of the company joined the lawsuit, accusing Merrill of systematic and pervasive discrimination against African-American brokers and trainees nationwide in hiring, promotion and compensation. Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat company was also accused by thirteen current and former African-American employees of racial discrimination in 2006. (Reuters, Nov. 7, 2006)
Racial disparities in education are also growing. According to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005 data, in the United States more than half ethnic minority males dropped school before high school graduation, 67.5 percent Hispanics and 53 percent blacks got no further education after graduating from high school. White Americans were more likely to hold a graduate or professional degree. At least 30 percent white adults held a bachelor’s degree, compared with 17 percent black adults and 12 percent Hispanic adults. Racial segregation in education is in fact quite serious. According to a symposium held in the University of California at Los Angeles in October 2006, in the Los Angeles school district, 67 percent Hispanic students studied in 90 percent to 100 percent non-white schools. The racial divide in Los Angeles high schools was more serious. In Beverly High School, 73 percent students were whites, 8 percent were Asians, and 6 percent were Hispanics. As a contrast, among the 4,940 students in Rosevelt High School, 98.9 percent were Hispanics and 1 percent were blacks. There were big disparities in school facilities due to the racial divide.
Racial discrimination is deep-rooted in America’s law enforcement and judicial systems. Discrimination against Muslims in law enforcement has persisted in the United States since the September 11 attacks. According to Associated Press reports, in November 2006 six Muslims, who were returning from a religious conference, were taken off an airliner from Minneapolis to Phoenix, handcuffed and questioned, only because a passenger had passed a note about them to a flight attendant. In the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, four airlines accused of breaking federal anti-discrimination laws settled with the government. Transportation Department investigations found the airlines had unlawfully removed passengers because of perceived ethnic or religious backgrounds. (The Associated Press, Nov. 28, 2006) And Latino and African-American motorists in most areas of Los Angeles were significantly more likely than whites to be asked during police stops to leave their vehicles and submit to searches, according to a study ordered by the city in 2006 (Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2006).
In judicial practice, blacks are usually more severely punished than whites. According to statistics of the National Urban League, of the sentences issued in 12 crime categories in the State Courts, sentences for black males were longer than white males in all of them. (The State of Black America 2006, issued by National Urban League, March 27, 2006) Black people account for only 12.1 percent of the U.S. population, however, according to statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice, at the end of 2005, about 40 percent of all male inmates sentenced to more than one year were black, and 20 percent were Latino Americans. According to a report released by the Human Rights Watch on Dec. 1, 2006, the number of black inmates was 6.6 times that of whites and the number of Latino inmates was 2.5 times that of white inmates. Statistics showed that about one out of 12 black men were in jail or prison, compared with one in 100 white men. Researchers pointed to poverty, a lack of opportunities, racism in the criminal justice system forthe black-white prison gap. (Answer to AIDS Mystery Found Behind Bars, Washington Post, March 9, 2006)
Racial segregation and discrimination results in an increase of hate crimes. The number of extreme racist and neo-Nazi organizations has increased by 33 percent in recent five years, rising from 672 in 2004 to 803 in 2005. ([Argentina] Clarin, May 25, 2006) Meanwhile, the number of hate crimes kept increasing. Ananalysis of the 7,160 single-bias incidents by bias motivation revealed that 54.7 percent were motivated by a racial bias. (FBI press release, Oct. 16, 2006) New York City reported 230 hate crimes in 2006, about 8 percent more than in 2005, with the number of those targeted at Asian Americans more than doubled.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll published in December 2006 found that 84 percent of blacks and 66 percent of whites believe racism is a serious problem, and there are many different kinds of racism aimed at many different groups in U.S. society. (CNN, Dec. 15, 2006) ¡¡
The full report details many human rights concerns for the United States. Above, I quoted the parts on poverty and racism in the United States, which relate with this blog.
Poverty, hunger, and human rights violations plague the entire world. This problem is neither absent from nor unique to the United States. Unfortunately, poverty rates have risen drastically under George Bush. For example, in the past year alone, over 14 million more U.S. citizens have fallen below the poverty line.