African Americans:

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 1 presents the idea that all persons are born free and equal, and should respect one another and his or her rights "in a spirit of brotherhood." However, what many people seem to disregard is that we are supposed to treat each other with respect and fellowship. From bullying to hate crimes to discrimination, the color of one's skin unfortunately has always been a factor in others' treatment of him or her.


Marvell Robinson Driven to Homeschooling~ Only a couple of years ago, one of his classmates poured an anthill on Marvell Robinson, an African American kindergarten student at the time. At other instances, he had received various remarks and insults that left him speechless. For example, while swinging from a swing set, another one of his classmates taunted him, saying, "Why are you that color?" As these situations of racial bullying continued to take place, Marvell's mother, Vanessa Robinson, felt compelled to start homeschooling his son instead of sending him to public school. It is these acts of mistreatment and discrimination that has driven more and more African American families to homeschool their children. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, African Americans make up 10% of homeschooled students, compared to the 16% of students in public schools.


Death of James Byrd Jr.~ On June 7, 1998, three men (pictured below) stopped James Byrd, who was African American and 49 years old, as he was walking back to his house at night. The men offered him a ride home, but instead drove into a more desolate area, where the men beat him, chained him to the back of their car, and dragged him as they drove. After three miles, Byrd was decapitated as well as lost an arm, and after another mile, the men dumped his body near an African American cemetery. It is hard to believe that someone could do this, but the truth is that hate crimes against people of color happen far too often. Whatever happened to the "spirit of brotherhood?"

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Under this Article, everyone has the right to live, have freedom, and feel safe in each of his or her communities. After various incidents of injustice pertaining to African Americans, many have expressed that they do not feel safe living in a society where such things happen. Especially as most of these cases go without justice being made.


"Justice for Trayvon" Rally~ After the death of Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, numerous protests against racial discrimination took place in more than 100 cities in the United States. Terri White, a 60-year-old Baltimore psychotherapist, joined one of these, saying that she has African American descendants and “want[s] to see things change for them.” What this miscarriage of justice does is that it dehumanizes African American people. It conveys to people in minorities is that their lives do not matter enough to be worthy of justice, which creates a sense of fear and danger in them. In response to these feelings of self-hate and existentialism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement arose to support those who do not see their worth.


Death of Jonathan Ferrell~ On September 14, 2013, after crashing his car, Jonathan Ferrell, 24, (pictured below) knocked on the door of a nearby house in search for help. The woman inside the house closed the door as soon as she saw him and called the police, who tried to tase Ferrell as he was towards them. Ferrell continued to run towards them, and so officer Randall Kerrick shot him...ten times. It took two grand juries to indict officer Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter. Just the fact that it took two grand juries to come to finally charge the officer with homicide is outrageous and disheartening because it should not take so much for people to realize such wrongful acts.

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Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 5 exists to protect all persons from torture and mistreatment. However, there have been many cases in which people have been abused based on the color of their skin. Various unbelievable hate crimes have taken place that seem so cruel, disrespectful, and dehumanizing that it is hard to wrap one's head around them.


Hate Crimes Against Donald Williams Jr.~ Logan Beaschler, Joseph Bomgardner, and Colin Warren were the roommates of an African American freshman at San Jose State University. They mistreated and taunted their roommate, calling him "three-fifths" and "fraction" to make him feel like less than a whole person. Apart from this, they also hung a Confederate flag in their dorm, and even clamped a bicycle lock around his neck. And while Beaschler has surrendered, the other two young men have not yet been arrested, only suspended from the University.


Martese Johnson Bloodied~ Martese Johnson, 20, is an African American student at the University of Virginia. On March 18, 2015, Johnson was arrested outside of Trinity Irish Pub for being underaged. During his arrest, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents flung him to the ground and his face was bloodied. Johnson was charged with public swearing and intoxication and obstructing justice. However, when he blew into a breathalyzer, he blew out 0.02 BAC, which is not legal intoxication. During an interview with ABC News, Johnson's roommate Joshua Kinlaw said that “there is nothing he could’ve said or done that could provoke an officer of the law to assault him in such a manner."

Arrest of Martese Johnson 3/18/15
Death of James Byrd Jr.~ On June 7, 1998, Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John King fooled James Byrd (pictured to the left) into giving him a ride. Instead, however, the three men drove him to a more desolate, wooded area of Jasper, Texas, where they beat him, chained him to the back of their car, and dragged him for four miles as they drove. After the first three, Byrd was decapitated when his body hit the edge of a culvert. For their crime, Brewer was executed, King was sentenced to death and is currently on death row, and Berry was sentenced to life in prison, but even so, nothing could ever atone for Byrd's death.

Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 7 ensures that all people, regardless of race, gender, sex, religion, sexual orientation, status, etc., are equally protected by the Declaration of Human Rights. While many in the United States do believe that everyone was born equal and that skin color does not matter, there are still many instances in which the rights of African Americans are not taken into account.

Navy Discharges Jessica Sims~ The Navy discharged 12-year-long sailor Jessica Sims (pictured to the right) for failing to follow orders to cut off her natural hair. The military has many guidelines that, to many, are believed to be discriminatory against African Americans, as it prohibits "hair natural, including twists, headbands, dreadlocks, or multiple braids that are larger than a quarter-inch," which are popular hairstyles among black women. These guidelines do not take into consideration people of minorities, which might suggest that they are not equal to everyone else.

Martese Johnson Bloodied~ Martese Johnson (pictured to the left) is a 20-year-old African American student at the University of Virginia. On March 18, 2015, Johnson was arrested outside of Trinity Irish Pub for being underaged. During his arrest, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents assaulted him, flinging him to the ground, which resulted in his face being bloodied. During an interview with ABC News, Johnson's roommate Joshua Kinlaw expressed that he believed it was a racial issue because white students at UVA used fake IDs to get into pubs nearly every night. He said that even if a white person did get arrested for being underaged, he or she would never be assaulted as Johnson was.
Interview with Johnson's Roommate

Joshua Kinlaw tells ABC News that “there is nothing he could’ve said or done that could provoke an officer of the law to assault him in such a manner."

Article 8: Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

If one’s human rights are violated, this Article ensures that all persons have the right to see that justice is accomplished. In many cases, however, the people who should be charged with a crime on account of racial discrimination are not. As more and more acts of discrimination take place without being brought to justice, people in minorities start to feel as though society is telling them that their lives are worthless.


Death of Trayvon Martin~ Trayvon Martin was an African-American teenager of only 17 years of age when he died on February 26, 2012. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator, shot him after calling the Police Department to report Martin’s “suspicious” character, who had gone to buy Skittles and iced tea. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder two months after the shooting, but was acquitted of the crime on July 13, 2013, leading to various protests throughout the country. It is safe to say that justice was not served.


Death of Eric Garner~ Eric Garner died on July 17, 2014 when police officer Daniel Pantaleo held him in a chokehold to the point of death. While it is and has been banned to hold someone in a chokehold in New York since 2004, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, which sparked many protests centered around Garner's last words: "I can't breathe."

Eric Garner: NYPD Officer Not Indicted for Choke Hold Death

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

This Article gives people the right to express themselves and their opinions freely and without interference. This right is probably one of the most practiced by all people. It allows people to speak up and voice their throughts and ideas, which we see through protests, art, literature, poetry, etc. However, very often, people get offended by the messages that protests convey, and so, much drama arises from people's freedom of expression.


Jamila Lyiscott Gives a TED Talk~ Jamila Lyiscott, an African American poet and educator, used her voice to speak up against racial discrimination at a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talk. TED is an organization that promotes the sharing of ideas and opinions through presentations; speakers on stage can express themselves in whichever way they prefer without being interrupted. And so Lyiscott presented her talk through a slam poem about what language means to her and what it really means to speak a different language.

Jamila Lyiscott: 3 ways to speak English

"I Can't Breathe" T-Shirt Controversy~ After the death of Eric Garner at the hands of policeman Daniel Pantaleo, LeBron James, along with other players, decided to peacefully protest by wearing shirts that read: “I can’t breathe.” These were Garner’s last words. This movement inspired many sports teams and individuals to join the protest. However, athletes in Mendocino High School were banned from wearing these shirts in honor of Garner due to the controversy that the movement spurred.


"Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Gesture Controversy~ On November 30, 2014, several members of the St. Louis Rams made an entrance at a National Football League (NFL) game making a gesture in response to the death of Michael Brown, shot by officer Darren Wilson. They raised their hands in the air, making the now-well-known “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose. In response to this peaceful protest, the St. Louis Police Officers Association asked for a public apology and requested that the NFL punish them. However, the NFL’s vice president of communications defended the players’ rights by saying, “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”

NFL Stars Do "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" Protest During Game, Cops Furious

Article 20.1: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

Article 20.1 reinforces the purpose of 1st Amendment. Under this Article, all persons have the right to come together as a group to express, promote, and defend their ideas and opinions. This means that people have the right to come together with a purpose in a peaceful manner; the purpose for their assembly can range from protest to recreation. This right is often problematic, as some might abuse their freedoms and create much controversy regarding what might fall under “peaceful assembly and association.”


#BlackLivesMatter Movement~ After George Zimmerman was freed from his charge of second-degree murder for killing Trayvon Martin, the #BlackLivesMatter Movement was created as a call to action to peacefully stand against the degrading a de-humanization of African Americans. This movement was created for the African American lives that are lost every 28 hours at the hands of the police or vigilante law enforcement, for the 25.1% of black women who live in poverty, and for the life expectancy of 35 years for a black, transgender woman. It was created for the injustice and for the discrimination against African Americans.


Protests in Baltimore~ Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American male, died on April 19, 2015 of a serious spinal cord injury. This happened only one week after being arrested for possession of a switchblade. After Freddie Gray's funeral on April 27, 2015, many people came together to protest in Baltimore, Maryland. They started out as peaceful ones, but later turned violent on April 28, which brought numerous riots and fires to the city. These violent demonstrations resulted in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issuing a mandatory curfew for the city of Baltimore from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for a week. Despite all the chaos, various peaceful protests still continued.

Baltimore Protester in Punisher Shirt Breaks Up Fight with Police - " Do Not Give them a Reason ! "

Article 21.2: Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

Under Article 21.2, all persons have “equal access to public service,” meaning that not one person can be denied these public services because of discrimination against his or her race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. With this in mind, many African-Americans have been denied access to public service based on their race.


Discrimination at Gun Range~ In 2014, the owner of Glenwood Gun and Pistol Range refused to let three African-American men, Eric Fountain, Bryant Scott, and Carl Scott, take target practice. After the owner told them to go practice shooting somewhere else, the three men filed a police report, accusing the storeowner of discrimination. The police did not file any charges, but an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) spokesman said that while “gun shop owners are generally given wide latitude about using their gut instinct to decide who they can allow in their store but race shouldn't be a factor” (Placko).


Death of Freddie Gray~ Freddie Gray (pictured below), who was 25 years old and African American, died on April 19, 2015 of a serious spinal cord injury. This happened only one week after being arrested for possession of a switchblade. Even after various requests, the policemen arresting him denied him medical attention. Gray’s death led to violent riots in Baltimore.

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Article 23.1: Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

This section of Article 23 ensures that all working environments are free of discrimination. While many companies and work places promote diversity, some still fail to be inclusive of all people, discriminating based on race, sex, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. instead of assessing each individual’s abilities without prejudice.


"Black" Names Affect Hireability~ In 2003, Vonnessa Goode, an African American woman, was pregnant with a girl. She was debating whether or not to give her daughter a "distinctively black name" for fear that it might end up being an economic impediment. While it seems like one's name could never affect his or her hireability, Goode's concern is not without reason. A study conducted by the Cambridge-based National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that people with "black-sounding" names are 50% less likely to receive a callback than those with "white-sounding" names and similar resumes. This is blatant racial discrimination, as it shows how some work places judge potential employees based on race rather than on ability.


Criminal Background Checks~ The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused BMW and retailer Dollar General of racial discrimination against African Americans, doing criminal background checks on employees in order to weed out workers. In this manner, BMW fired 70 black employees, including those with much experience in the company. Dollar General, having found inaccurate records, revoked the job application of an African American woman and later refused to reconsider her for the position. For these reasons, since the end of the recession in 2009, seven states have made it illegal for employers to ask about an applicant's criminal history on forms.

Article 26.2: Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

This piece of Article 26 makes the focus and goal of education one that promotes tolerance and respect among all people, groups, and nations. As it promotes acceptance and peace, it has encouraged diversity in schools in order for students to learn how to work with different people. However, many schools still fail to be diverse in its student body, and in addition, many teachers do not have much respect for students of color, which does not promote the tolerance for which the United Nations strives.


White Flight & the METCO Program~ "White Flight" is when white people move out to another location when people of other races move in. Regarding education, wealthier families move into different school districts so that the children might have a better education, which is why suburban schools are mostly, if not entirely, comprised of white students. It is not hard to see the correlation between race and economic class when it comes to education. In Massachusetts, the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) Program addresses this difference in quality of education between city public schools and suburban public schools. It was created with the purpose of reintegrating these schools and promoting diversity. The reasoning behind the program is, in the words of Ted Shaw, Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, that "it’s ridiculous to think that we are going to educate children [African American, Latino, European American, Asian American, or Native American] completely separately, and then throw them together in college or in the work environment, and expect that we’re not going to have conflict."


Marvell Robinson Driven to Homeschooling~ A couple of years ago, Marvell Robinson, an African American kindergarten student at the time, got an anthill poured onto him by one of his classmates. He was also called names and taunted with questions such as "Why are you that color?" These acts of discrimination created an unhealthy learning environment for Marvell, in which he did not feel safe. However, instead of the school administration stepping in to provoke change and inspire acceptance within its student body, Robinson's mother Marvell's mother, Vanessa Robinson, pulled him out of public school and started homeschooling him.

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