25 Oct Once you have read this week’s readings, please complete this eResponse by writing concise but thorough answers to all of the following questions. You must include page numbers in each que
Once you have read this week's readings, please complete this eResponse by writing concise but thorough answers to all of the following questions.
You must include page numbers in each question–your score will depend on it. I do not require any specific citation format. Just include (author last name, page number) at the end of the relevant sentences. Please note that you must cite when you draw any ideas from the text, whether or not you explicitly quote it. And you must draw your ideas from the text because that is the assignment.
Please be sure that if and when you use a direct quotation from the reading, you also explain what that quotation means in your own words.
Please complete your eResponse by the deadline listed for this assignment.
Questions (number your answers)
- Jensen marshals a thorough historical survey to question the universality of the blossoming human rights paradigm.
- Discuss one example from the reading that cast doubt on the universality of the UDHR.
- Discuss one example that bolstered the claim of universality.
- What was the Bandung conference? The participants in this conference focused on what right?
- What does Anderson's chapter tell us about the indivisibility of the different categories of human rights (civil, political, social, economic, cultural)? Were they divided? What was the problem?
- Anderson explains that domestic pressures in the U.S. to protect white supremacy lead to compromises that weakened the enforcement structures of human rights. Describe one of these compromises.
Bringing Human Rights Home
A History of Human Rights in the United States
CYNTHIA SOOHOO, CATHERINE ALBISA, AND MARTHA F. DAVIS
Foreword by Louise Arbour
Westport, Connecticut London
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bringing human rights home/ edited by Cynthia Soohoo, Catherine Albisa, and
Martha F. Davis ; foreword by Louise Arbour. p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-275-98821-0 (set: alk. paper) ISBN 978-0-275-98822-7 (vol.l: alk. paper) ISBN 978-0-275-98823-4 (vol. 2: alk. paper) ISBN 978-0-275-98824-l (vol.3: alk. paper) 1. Human rights-United States. 2. Human rights-United States-History. 3. Civil
rights-United States-History. 4. Social justice-United States. 5. United States-Foreign relations. I. Soohoo, Cynthia. II. Albisa, Catherine. III. Davis, Martha F., l 957-
JC599.U5.B694 2008 323.0973-dc22 2007040492
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available.
Copyright © 2008 by Cynthia Soohoo, Catherine Albisa, and Martha F. Davis
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be
reproduced, by any process or technique, without the express written consent of the publisher.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2007040492 ISBN-13: 978-0-275-98821-0 (set)
978-0-275-98822-7 (vol. 1)
978-0-275-98823-4 (vol. 2) 978-0-275-98824-l (vol. 3)
First published in 2008
Praeger Publishers, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881 An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. www.praeger.com
Printed in the United States of America
The paper used in this book complies with the
Permanent Paper Standard issued by the National Information Standards Organization (Z39 .48-1984 ).
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Foreword by Louise Arbour
Introduction to Volume 1 Martha F. Davis
A Human Rights Lens on U.S. History: Human Rights at Home and Human Rights Abroad Paul Gordon Lauren
FDR's Four Freedoms and Wartime
Transformations in America's Discourse of Rights 31
Louis Henkin and Human Rights: A New Deal at Home and Abroad Catherine Powell
A "Hollow Mockery": African Americans, White Supremacy, and the Development of Human Rights in the United States Carol Anderson
"New" Human Rights: U.S. Ambivalence Toward the International Economic and Social Rights Framework Hope Lewis
Blazing a Path from Civil Rights to Human Rights: The Pioneering Career of Gay McDougall Vanita Gupta
About the Editors and Contributors
A "Hollow Mocl(ery": African Americans, White
Supremacy, and the Development of Human
Rights in the United States
Compelled to state the obvious, Walter White, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), explained to several congressional leaders that "Democracy doesn't mean much to man with an empty belly." 1 Although the context of that discussion was on human rights in the emerging nations, White (and the NAACP) had earlier grasped that that particular maxim was equally applicable to the United States. From the organization's long, hard years battling Jim Crow, the Asso ciation realized that political and economic rights had to converge. One could not carry the heavy burden of equality all alone. The NAACP fully recog nized, nonetheless, that most people of color had never even experienced political democracy. For millions of African Americans, the right to vote, to participate in civil society, to enjoy the freedoms associated with checks on government abuse, and to benefit from the protection of civil rights had be come articles of faith, pillars of hope, and the ephemera of dreams, but cer tainly not the substance of reality. Indeed, much of black life in America fo cused on how systematically and completely those basic civil rights were repeatedly denied, ignored, and trampled on.
A new, major study, for example, focuses on the NAACP's almost 100-year long battle to integrate African Americans into the political life of the United States.2 In the early years, the white primary, election-day terrorism, and the poll tax had eliminated generations from the voting booth. Historian Man fred Berg, therefore, notes that by the time of the 1942 congressional elec tions one report "estimated that … only 3 percent of the total population of the seven poll tax states had cast their ballots, compared to 25 percent in the rest of the nation." In fact "[m]ore votes were cast in Rhode Island, the
76 A HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES
smallest state in the Union with roughly seven hundred thousand residents and two representatives, than for all of the thirty-seven representatives of Ala bama, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina, with a total popu lation of more than 11 million."3 Yet, as important as the right to vote was and is, the quest for equality would require more than simply ending disen franchisement. As Walter White indicated, if black life was really going to be about life and not just survival, there was something beyond civil rights that had to be achieved.
The NAACP, the nation's largest, oldest, and most influential civil rights organization, had, therefore, slowly but surely begun to grasp the power and importance of economic rights in the struggle for equality.4 The first glint came during the Great Depression. That economic meltdown had brought a horrific spike in the killing of black America as the number of lynchings and the degree of sadistic, spectacle violence increased. The Depression had also led to scores of impoverished black sharecroppers being driven off the land so that plantation owners could reap multimillion-dollar windfalls from the New Deal. And, while the overall unemployment rate in the United States was a crushing 25 percent, the jobless rate in the black community hovered well above 50 percent overall and in some cities lingered at a death-defying 80 percent. The right to vote, or any other civil right, was not going to solve this alone. Stark, raving abject poverty had black America buckling under the strain. 5
The onset of World War II did little, initially, to ease this burden. While the United States's emergence as the "arsenal of democracy" finally gave most whites freedom from the economic devastation of the Great Depres sion, rampant discrimination in the defense industries and, frankly, through out most sectors of the employment market kept African Americans locked out and locked down. More than half of the defense industries surveyed by the United States Employment Service, for example, "stated flatly that they would not" hire an African American for any position.6
Thus, as the United States prepared to destroy regimes championing Aryan and Japanese supremacy, economic and political oppression continued to con verge like a vise on black life in America. From education, to medical care, to housing, to employment, to the court systems, even to the hallowed ground of the vote, there was no escaping the fact that there was, indeed, a "flagrant disparity" between the lofty rhetoric and the actual practice of American de mocracy. Presidential candidate Wendell Willkie would call it the "mocking paradoxes."7 The Japanese government was even more blunt. The American people, Emperor Hirohito's regime declared, have "'run amuck' in an orgy ofJim Crowism. "8
The killing of Cleo Wright, less than a month after the attack on Pearl Har bor, was painfully illustrative. In January 1942, while the United States was spelling out for the entire world its postwar human rights vision, Wright was lynched in Sikeston, Missouri. There was no question that he had brutally assaulted a white woman. There was also no doubt that, while resisting arrest, the black laborer had slashed a cavernous hole through half of a deputy's face. And it was, therefore, equally certain that Cleo Wright, staggering under the effects of "bad whiskey," had just committed the ultimate transgressions,
A "HOLLOW MOCKERY" 77
especially for a black man in Jim Crow America, in an area of the country where African Americans barely earned $50 a year, where nearly 100 African American families, denied access to new public housing, stayed in tents year round, and where other blacks "lived in cabins behind the northeast homes of wealthy whites, or in . .. alley quarters … 'unfit for human habitation.' "9
The attempted rape of a white woman and the knifing of a sheriff led to a blistering counterattack. When it was over, Wright, bloodied, pistol-whipped, and suffering from at least eight gunshot wounds, was taken to the only avail able medical facility in the area, a "whites only" hospital, where, with no pain killers, the doctor patched, stitched, and plugged up what he could. An over night stay was, of course, out of the question. Bandaged and hovering near death, Wright was eventually packed off to the local jail. Although the end was a foregone conclusion, either through his numerous wounds or Missouri's criminal justice system, the "good folk " of Sikeston had concluded that a plain, old, run-of-the-mill death was not going to be enough. Black men may have accounted for nearly 90 percent of all executions in the United States for the offense of rape, but there were some lessons that no judge, no jury, and no hooded executioner could ever deliver.10 The criminal justice system was just not fast enough or brutal enough to compensate for the fact that "[t]hese damn niggers are getting too smart, " "too cocky, " and were "just looking for a lynching." 1 1
In the twilight hours, angry whites stormed the jail, overpowered the state troopers, pulled an unconscious Wright from his cell, hooked his bullet riddled body to the bumper of a car, and set out for the black neighborhood. After trolling Sikeston's black district that Sunday morning with their maca bre bumper ornament in tow, his lynchers cut Wright's mangled body from the car, soaked him in five gallons of gasoline, and lit a match. Wright, some how miraculously still alive, let out an agonizing wail. In his last grasp for life, Wright's flame-whipped arms "reached skyward as if pleading for a mercy that did not come " while the thick putrid smoke from his roasting carcass poured through the windows of the packed local black church.12 "This was, " of course, "not a matter of executing justice." The point, as the lynchers made clear, was "to terrify the Negro population and to show them who was boss. " 13 The lessons, however, were still not over. Although it was well known who, precisely, had participated in every phase of the lynching-from the storming of the jail to tossing the lit match on the black man's gasoline soaked body-a "federal grand jury refused to return any indictments " because although the murderers "had denied Wright due process, … they had committed no federal offense since Wright was either already dead or dying." 14
The black press erupted, "Remember Pearl Harbor … and Sikeston, Missouri." 15 The NAACP's report, while more restrained, was in its own way equally incendiary. This was war. Although the battle against the Axis powers was evident, there was an equally important battle to be fought at home. African Americans ( and whomever their allies may be) were going to have to eliminate, root and branch, the economic and political conditions that had led to the killing of Cleo Wright and all of the thousands of Cleo Wrights that had gone before him. "[N]o change in legal procedure alone will solve the
78 A HISTORY 01' HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES
problem," the NAACP concluded. "Its roots are buried too deep in racial feeling and in our economic set-up. In southeast Missouri today Negroes … have never had an opportunity to develop beyond their position as serfs." In fact, because blacks "were imported to pick cotton," the report continued, there had been a concerted, conscious effort to ensure that they would have "little education and little earning power." The general fear was that "if they were educated they" might actually refuse to toil for pennies a day in the plantation owners' fields and, as a consequence, just "might be more trouble some." The NAACP's investigators concluded that it was the economic sys tem that had left African Americans mercilessly exposed to the political and economic ravages of white supremacy. As a result, the Association insisted, there was only one way out of this abyss. "The change from feudalism to a system whereby Negroes can earn enough to stand independently on their own, can only come . . . when the Negro reaches a point where he merits and receives respect as an independent individual with human rights." 16
The Association, in short, recognized that that horrible moment in Missouri-a lynching designed to terrorize and remind the economically de pressed and politically vulnerable African American population of their "place" in the racial hierarchy; a "whites only" hospital that virtually ignored the medical needs of thousands of its residents; a readily identifiable black part of town that reflected the housing segregation, substandard education, and poverty wages that haunted African Americans; an all-white political power structure that fretted over the excessive violence of the lynching but was more concerned about maintaining a cheap, exploitable labor supply; and a judicial system that weighed guilt and innocence on racially rigged scales that denigrated black life and privileged whiteness-was but a microcosm of the human rights violations that had dogged African American communities for centuries. Cleo Wright was no aberration. 17
That had to change. For the NAACP, the right to education was the well spring of that change. 18 Education could broaden employment opportuni ties, provide access to better-paying jobs, create the wherewithal for quality housing, break the back of and expose the racist underpinnings of literacy tests, poll taxes, and other tools of disenfranchisement, and develop the healthcare system to meet the needs of millions who had little or no access to decent medical treatment.
That kind of education, however, was decidedly unavailable, especially for blacks in the America of World War II. One report on the status of black America in the early 1940s noted that "[ a ]pproximately four-fifths of all Ne groes in the United States have had access to none other than segregated schools for their public education. To thousands of Negroes in the South, not even segregated schools have been available." 19 And, to be clear, the education served up to black people may have been separate, as Plessy al lowed, but it certainly lacked the equality, which Plessy required. The federal government estimated in 1941 that it would take the equivalent, in 2005 dollars, of more than $4.2 billion to equalize the black school system in the United States.20 The NAACP noted that when it came to state investment in school facilities "252% more money was spent on each white child than was spent on each Negro child in the same community-ranging from 28.5%
A "HOLLOW MOCKERY" 79
in Oklahoma to 731.9% in Mississippi. In some counties the difference is 1500%."21 A newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi, was even compelled to remark on the staggering disparities. Although African American children comprised nearly 60 percent of the school age population in Jackson, they received "only 9 percent of the budget. "22 This pattern repeated itself throughout the state like a debilitating refrain. By 1940, more than half of all African Ameri can adults in Mississippi had less than five years of formal education; almost 12 percent had no schooling whatsoever. The figures for the "mis-education of the Negro" were even higher in South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama.23
The fact that there were millions of uneducated, barely educated, and mis educated held major repercussions for nearly every sector of black life in America. The effect on the healthcare system was immediately apparent. There was a critical need for African American physicians throughout the United States's segregated healthcare system but there were only a few who could slog through the miasma of Jim Crow education to meet that overwhelming demand. This chronic shortage was, unfortunately, exacerbated by the dis criminatory admissions policies of universities and medical schools through out the United States. In Philadelphia, for example, which housed five different medical schools, "only eighteen Negroes have been graduated … in twenty seven years." In New York, "no Negro enrolled at Cornell University College of Medicine at any time between 1920 and 1942 " and Columbia University destroyed its admissions records when asked to provide racial data on medical school applicants and enrollees. In fact, only "eighty-five colored students are currently enrolled in twenty Northern and Western schools, as against 25,000 whites. About fifteen Negroes are graduate from these schools each year."24
With the bulk of higher education closed to African Americans, two his torically black universities, Howard University Medical School and Meharry Medical College, accounted for nearly "85 per cent of all the Negro doctors now in practice." 25 Despite their herculean effort, however, those two medi cal colleges did not have the capacity to produce a sufficient number of doctors to meet the healthcare needs of a malnourished, impoverished popu – lation, whose life expectancy rate was nearly a decade less than whites and whose infant mortality rates were double. That is to say, while the American Medical Association had determined that the minimum ratio of doctor to population was one for every 1,500, the ratio in the black community was more than twice that. On average, in the 1940s, there was only one African American "doctor for every 3337 Negroes …. In Mississippi the ratio is one to 18,527."26
Dr. Roscoe Conkling Brown, Chief of the Office of Negro Health Work for the United States Public Health Service, summarized the conditions that had created this crisis. "Poor housing, malnutrition, ignorance, and inadequate access to basic health essentials-hospitals, clinics, medical care-are among the social factors contributing to the Negro's health status. This racial group 'has a problem of such size and complexity,' " he noted, "as to challenge the leadership of both the Negro and white races to intelligently, coura geously, and persistently prosecute for the nation a definite program of general health betterment for all people without recrimination or discrimination. "27
80 A HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES
The NAACP, whose chairman of the board was Dr. Louis T. Wright, chief of surgery at Harlem Hospital, decided that this challenge and all of the other challenges surrounding the human rights of African Americans had to be met.
The war and the language of war proved an important vehicle in the As sociation's fight to make human rights a viable force in the United States. In 1941, before Pearl Harbor, and despite President Franklin Roosevelt's con cerns as he watched one European nation after the next being mowed under by the German Wehrmacht, isolationists had effectively blocked American entry into the war. Although Britain now stood alone as the thin dividing line between the democratic West and the global domination of Nazi Germany, the isolationists, haunted by the legacy of World War I, dug in. Senator George Aiken (R-VT) summarized the sentiment best when he noted that: "The farm and village folk of my State … would go all the way, down to the last dollar and the last man, to protect Canada. But they do not see why Ameri can boys should give their lives to define the boundaries of African colonies, or to protect American promoters or exploiters in Indochina or New Guinea. Neither do I."28 This was the implacable resistance that President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to overcome.
On August 14, 1941, they issued the Atlantic Charter to make clear that this was not like World War I. This was not about secret treaties, secret clauses, colonial swap meets, and territorial envy. Rather, the war against the Nazis was different. A victory this time would create a better, new world order. This brave new world, the Atlantic Charter proclaimed, would be predicated on justice, democracy, and human rights. Historian Elizabeth Borgwardt bril liantly lays out, though, that the message in the Atlantic Charter was, in fact, many messages. It had one specific meaning for the British, another for the American government, and a decidedly different one for those living under racial oppression.29
The Atlantic Charter's language was specific enough, eloquent enough, and vague enough to envelope a range of interpretations. African Americans clearly saw it as a way out of no way. The second and third points of the At lantic Charter, for example, spoke of self-determination, that all people had the right to choose their own government. That bedrock principle of democ racy would, ironically enough, prove particularly troublesome for the two leaders. The people who lived in Britain's colonial possessions did not have the right to vote, could not choose their leaders or what form of government they wanted. Was Churchill finally saying that Hitler's attack, besides bring ing Britain to its knees, had also brought the nation to its senses? And in the United States, African Americans, particularly in the South, were systemati cally denied the right to vote, denied the right to choose their governmental officials and the right to have a political voice in shaping the conditions under which they lived, worked, and died. Did this pledge from the president of the United States mean that the federal government was now finally going to compel Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, and the rest of the states to adhere to the Constitution and the Atlantic Charter? The African American leadership certainly thought that it did.
The Atlantic Charter offered more than mere self-determination, how ever. The fifth point in that historic document truly seemed to be the dawn
A "HOLLOW MOCKERY" 81
of a new world order. The United States and Britain pledged "to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security."30 The phrase "for all" was unintentionally but decidedly revolutionary. The leaders seemed to promise that the world's citizens would finally have human rights-better working conditions, better and increasing pay, and a safety net of economic security. The British and American leader ship had grasped that it was the destabilization in the world markets, which had then avalanched into the Great Depression, that had made Hitler so ap pealing to the Germans. Roosevelt and Churchill were determined that never again would a nation's economy be so ravaged that the only way out of dark ness was through a raving demagogue like Adolf Hitler. Although this may have been the intention of the president and prime minister, African Ameri cans, whose living conditions were simply appalling, interpreted this as a pledge by the federal government to remove the barriers that had systemati cally prevented them from reaping the benefits from centuries of the unpaid and barely paid hard labor, which had built the wealthiest nation on earth.
Moreover, this vision of a new world, where there would never, ever be another Cleo Wright, was, for African Americans, encapsulated in the sixth principle of the Atlantic Charter. Roosevelt and Churchill averred that "after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which … will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want. "31 This, of course, was intended to put a halt to military invasions and all the Gestapo-like goon squads who abused power and terrorized people. But it meant more than that to African Americans. It was not the Nazis that terrorized them day after day. It was the Ku Klux Klan, it was the police and sheriff's departments, it was the lynch mob, it was racial oppression in the United States. Indeed, African Americans looked at Nazi Germany and saw an evil that was distinctly, painfully familiar. In 1941, after reviewing a series of Nazi edicts such as the sterilization of the mulatto "Rhineland bastards" and the application of the Nuremberg Laws to Germany's black population, Pittsbu1lJh Courier journalist George Schuyler remarked that "what struck me . .. was that the Nazi plan for Negroes ap proximates so closely what seems to be the American plan for Negroes. "32
Walter White and NAACP board member Earl Dickerson echoed that senti ment by continuously pointing to the similarities between white supremacy in the United States and Aryan supremacy in Nazi Germany and the inevita ble destruction that rained down on so-called marginal populations whenever either of those supremacist doctrines came into play.33 Had this picture of racial oppression been frightening enough, like the portrait of Dorian Gray, to compel the American government to reclaim its soul and honor its oft spoke commitment to equality and democracy?
The black leadership, of course, had no illusions that this reclamation project would or could happen overnight. The sobering and unforgettable false promises of World War I still resonated like a bitter refrain. African Americans' unrequited faith in democracy and misguided "patriotic" silencing of agitation for equality, had not helped make the world, or the United States for that matter, "safe for democracy." Instead, after World War I, African Americans
82 A HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES
felt the cold, malevolent embrace of a nation that had reified white suprem acy, welcomed the resurgence of the Klan, and drowned America in the black blood of Red Summer. Hardened by that unflinching betrayal, African Amer icans learned an invaluable lesson. White House aide Philleo Nash immedi ately noticed the difference. The tenor and tone of the black community during World War II was like nothing he had ever seen before. "Negroes," he warned the Roosevelt administration, were not the Negroes of World War I. This time, he noted with alarm, they are "in a militant and demanding mood."34 Indeed, one black soldier encapsulated that militancy best when he declared, "I'm hanged if I'm going to let the Alabama version of the Ger mans kick me around when I get home . . . . I went into the Army a nigger; I'm coming out a man. "35
This was a new day. African Americans were demanding "freedom [and] rejecting [the] idea of racial inferiority." The language of the Atlantic Char ter's Four Freedoms, particularly freedom from fear and freedom from want, meant that the "[ c ]ontinued humiliation to Negroes who are segregated in the armed forces," the perpetuation of persistently "[b ]ad and inadequate housing," and rampant "[u]nemployment even where man-power shortages are present," were not going to be tolerated. Not this time.36 A "war for the Four Freedoms," the NAACP declared, had erupted in black America.37
Therefore, when Churchill insisted that the Atlantic Charter was, for all intents and purposes, a "whites only" affair, Walter White and other members of the black leadership repudiated the prime minister and called on President Roosevelt to issue a Pacific Charter "so that dark-skinned and colonial peo ples may be given greater hope of real political democracy and freedom from economic exploitation." White then challenged Roosevelt to "prove to the colored peoples . . . that you are not hypocrites when you say this is a war for freedom. Prove it to us and we will show you that we can and will fight like fury for that freedom. But," White added, "we want-and we
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