Racial Justice at the United Nations

Martin Luther King, Jr. at the United Nations Headquarters

Guided by our principles, Unitarian Universalists are called to advocate for international human rights; to be a voice for the voiceless by promoting the inherent worth and dignity of all living things.

In light of the United Nations declaring 2015-2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent, the racial justice program of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations (UU@UN) is committed to expanding the United States' Movement for Black Lives to address anti-black racism on an international level.

People of African descent worldwide experience racist oppression at alarming rates. The global population of people of African descent, including those of mixed heritage, is approximately 1.4 billion. Over 200 million live in the Western Hemisphere, most notably the United States, the Caribbean, and South and Central America. Brazil alone can account for over 100 million.

In most of these areas, an overwhelming and disproportionate amount of black lives are being threatened by violence, poverty, imprisonment, slavery, and war. Racism and discrimination have been used as weapons to incite conflict and hatred across nations and generations.

As racial hatred and oppression continues to increase worldwide, global racism remains a reluctant topic of conversation. It is crucial that we begin the conversation to build international awareness, specifically surrounding the impact of structural anti-black racism.

What We Are Doing

The oppression and mistreatment of people of African descent is a human rights issue. The UU@UN is committed to approaching this by:

  • Promoting an increased awareness from the United Nations regarding countries and the state of their race relations.
  • Engaging with Unitarian Universalist congregations to execute programs and develop educational spaces regarding global anti-racism advocacy.
  • Setting a basic standard for developing respectful and fair communities.
  • Partnering with domestic and international programs dedicated to dismantling structural racism in favor of justice and equality.

Putting Racial Justice on the UN Agenda

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2015-2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent, committed to "recognition, justice, and development." The UU@UN's Racial Justice Initiative is embracing this commitment to equity, recognition, and the elimination of global racism. In November 2015 we hosted a landmark event, Confronting the Silence: Perspectives And Dialogue On Structural Racism Against People Of African Descent Worldwide. Held at United Nations Headquarters and moderated by our Director Bruce Knotts, this event contributed largely to bringing the issue of racial violence to the international stage by highlighting it as a violation of human rights. Featuring speakers and panelists such as Harry Belafonte, Mireille Fanon-Medès France, Alicia Garza, and Samaria Rice, we were able to initiate a truly comprehensive dialogue on the pervasiveness of global racism.

We are planning a follow-up event to promote discussion around violence against women of African descent worldwide. While much of the focus on racial justice has been through the lens of men of African descent, women of African descent have also suffered at the hands of law enforcement, military violence, domestic abuse, and social oppression. In bringing awareness to this issue we hope to provide a platform to move forward in addressing the intersection of race and gender around the world.


At the Intersection of Racism and Homophobia

The UU@UN hosted a panel discussion at the United Nations Church Center on Thursday, July 21, 2016: "At the Intersection of Racism and Homophobia: Joint Activism for Human Rights and Dignity." The conversation emphasized the need for activists to come together to advocate for all people's human rights. So many people fall at the intersection of different identities, and no one will be free until discrimination no longer exists in any dimension (be it race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, ability, criminal record, health status, income, etc...) The event was live streamed and can be viewed below.

Watch Video

International Decade for People of African Descent

Structural Racism

In 2015 the UU@UNO hosted a groundbreaking event at the United Nations focused on structural racism worldwide against people of African descent. You can watch "Confronting the Silence: Perspectives and Dialogue on Structural Racism against People of African Descent Worldwide" on UN Web TV.