America Should Recognize Its Own ‘Human Rights Crisis’

In 2014, with graying hair and anxiety, Obama expressed to the world that “we don’t have the strength to match our ambitions.”* America continues to lose its ability to control world order. Domestically, the August killing of Ferguson, Missouri youth Michael Brown has created America’s latest human rights scar. This summer, America was forced again to lower its flags for the death of an African-American by a white police officer. Americans had to think once again: How could this tragedy happen in America?

Throughout these ordeals, many Americans believe “occasional factors” are responsible for setting off or touching on this country’s weakest nerve — racism and racial conflict. Number one is the misuse of police authority. Second is the particular combination of parties at the scene: if the police officer was black, or if Brown was a white person, and the same situation were to occur, would there be large-scale protests or public unrest? Third, many different political trends fuel the flames. Every American political faction has been outspoken on the issue — Obama being the first African-American president has made it difficult for him to do so.

If one believes these so-called “occasional factors” led to this kind of event occurring, then America has not correctly or clearly recognized its own “human rights crisis.” This is because Americans believe that the American-style concept of human rights is universally valued, as measured according to the human rights situation in America. They always forget their own “human rights scars:” the 1856 Dred Scott case, where blacks were ruled to be the property of whites; Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which was just a “bad check” written to African-Americans; the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision also fueled the American civil rights movement. Although the 1964 Civil Rights Act implemented the de jure elimination of racism, racism still occurred constantly in daily life. African-Americans had no choice but to face “selective distancing” from white society. At the same time, the vicious cycle of black-on-black violence appeared in the African-American community.

In reality, America’s human rights record, especially considering this country’s “ticking time bomb” of racism, will never be as good as we imagine it can be. The killing of Brown will not be an “occasional” case; rather it will remain a “crisis.” As Obama has admitted to the U.N. General Assembly, “At times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within its own borders.”

Brown’s death has reminded all of us that in this world, there is no civil rights movement which has been completed, and the idea of human rights and human values is always changing. If a country gets too arrogant or thinks too highly of itself, then the concept of “valuing human rights” and “human rights protection” will start to come apart, and could easily slide into a “human rights crisis.” The Brown case is another massive stain on America’s human rights record, and it definitely won’t be the last.

*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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