Is it possible for human rights violations to occur in America? Plenty of facts reveal that America has not only faced many human rights “crises” in the past, but also in the present.
Under the double influence of the American culture of violence and the flood of firearms, American citizens face the plight of the violation of their basic human rights. In 2013, more than 1.16 million cases of violent crime took place in the USA: Among them are as many as 14,196 cases of murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide.
Over the past five years, America’s 105 law enforcement departments have been involved in more than 1,800 cases of murder, and these cases all occurred during the law enforcement process. What’s more horrifying is that many of the U.S. law enforcement departments did not lawfully report the statistics of killings by police officers to the FBI. Yet, this action is protected by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” Law enforcement officers should be conscientious and strict in enforcing laws; however, they are now causing “gray-area” human rights violations by using deadly weapons under the aegis of “appropriate legislation,” and even “appropriately” covering up some processes with CCTV “technological glitches.” The Ferguson case from Aug. 9, 2014 is still controversial, and this case has a direct relationship to the legislature’s weak response to the “gray-area” violence by white officers. In theory, the “due process of law” is the important principle in protecting human rights, but in reality, it is abused by law enforcers, thus becoming the “fig leaf” for “gray-area” violence.
The American government’s use of torture, communications monitoring and other various activities that violate human rights abroad are expanding abnormally. Since 9/11, America has been using “anti-terrorism” not only to provoke various wars on terrorism against independent states, but also to initiate large-scale “special programs” that after World War II would ultimately involve the violation of human rights. Until the end of 2014, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp still contained 136 prisoners. To obtain anti-terrorism intelligence, intelligence agencies, including the CIA, make use of sleep-deprivation, waterboarding, confinement and various other forms of torture; there are even severe cases where prisoners are violently thrown against walls, beaten to death, and fed rectal fluids.
At the same time, the PRISM surveillance program reveals that the American government exerts long-term, large-scale communications monitoring over U.S. citizens, international organizations, foreign government leaders and embassies. Why is the U.S. government, which promotes human rights, so terrifying outside of its borders? First, this is due to the Constitution’s lack of supervisory authority outside of its country; abroad, America’s power is a runaway horse, showing its wild side. American’s evasive attitude toward international human rights regulations is the second reason; America is passive in taking global responsibilities, thus its government has taken the chance of crossing boundaries and making human rights violation abroad “habitual.”
Racism is the unsolvable human rights “wound” in American society. To date, African-American and other minorities have to face society’s – dominated by whites – “selective alienation,” leading into an eager phase to search for equality. Under the aura of so-called “equality,” races in America are both critical and jealous of each other: Some African-Americans ask for priorities to social resources but neglect the fact that their skills are not as sufficient as those of their white counterparts; yet, some Caucasians believe that minorities have stolen their benefits, thus demanding a halt to “reverse discrimination.” In American society, internally, lots of forces are continuously fighting under the influence of the “equality anxiety effect.” Caucasian discrimination against African-Americans in the past has transformed into a battle with all American races, and this kind of battle causes many minorities to face unfair judgment calls on their basic rights.
America’s human rights violations are always “rising here and subsiding there;” on this critical issue, America needs to reflect on its mistakes and propose practical solutions.
The author is the director of the Center for Human Rights Education and Research of the Southwest University of Political Science.