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Getting to What Matters: The ICERD, Racism in the United States, and the Moral Language of Human Rights

Torero, Sebastian

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) represented one of the first attempts to give the concept of international human rights the force of law. Like all human rights treaties, enforcement of the ICERD is difficult, particularly in the United States, which has ratified the treaty but rendered it essentially null in domestic law. This thesis therefore follows the argument that human rights serve as a moral language for international politics, and asks what in turn the ICERD might offer to the United States. The ICERD appears to see recognition of group difference as essential to equality, and allows special measures to be taken for certain racial groups, bringing forth the problem of defining race in America. It also seems rooted in beliefs of race as inborn and universal, which ignores important realities about racism and race in the United States. The language of disparate impact contained in the treaty might allow for Americans to better probe their history and present, but it has shortcomings as well. Ultimately, this thesis hopes to enter into important conversations about racism, America’s history and future, and the role of human rights as an international language of justice.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Rosenthal, Mila H.
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
July 24, 2019
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