February 2, 2023

Linda Thomas-Greenfield warns racism is rising, praises alliance between Black Lives Matter in U.S. and End SARS activists in Nigeria

Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Linda Thomas-Greenfield

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Friday, warned against the rise of racism in the world, calling on the international community and change activists around the world to “stop this trend in its tracks.”

She noted that youth activists and movements on the ground are “confronting the mounting menace of racism in countries around the globe.”

She praised the alliance between Black Lives Matter activists in the United States and End SARS movement in Nigeria, saying that both groups were working together to bring about change in the world.

“In the summer of 2020, Black Lives Matter ignited protests and catalyzed change in countries around the world, from the United Kingdom to Colombia, France to New Zealand,” Thomas-Greenfield said in remarks at a United Nations General Assembly Commemorative Meeting on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. “In Nigeria, a similarly decentralized social movement, End SARS, has been calling for accountability of abuses and respect for Black lives. End SARS and Black Lives Matter activists have been working together, supporting each other, and driving us toward change. There’s the quilombo movement in Brazil, where Black Brazilians are creating spaces to celebrate their identity. There are the aboriginals pushing for justice in Australia, the Dalit farmers seeking to shed the yolk of the caste system in India. And we cannot forget the plight of Rohingya in Burma or Uyghurs in China, and members of other racial and ethnic groups, who are brutally oppressed simply because of who they are or what they believe.”

“What the members of all these global movements and so many others for racial justice understand is that our differences – our differences – are our source of strength,” she said. “As President Biden said, “Our country’s greatest strength is and always has been our diversity.” That’s why President Biden has made advancing racial equality and combating systemic racism a core priority of his administration, signing four – four – executive actions as soon as he took office. And it is why, this past year, he directed historic investments toward Black and brown communities – including the funds and resources Vice President Harris announced this week for Historically Black Colleges and Universities that recently experienced bomb threats.”

“Last year, I told the General Assembly about my own personal experiences with racism. And I spoke about the Atlanta spa shootings that had just happened, where six Asian women were killed. We are now marking the one-year anniversary of that tragic event – and still, anti-Asian racism and racism of all kinds continue to rise,” she said. “Just this week, 30 minutes north of here, Yonkers police officials say a man hit a woman in the head 125 times because she was Asian. He’s being charged with attempted murder. This anti-Asian bias has been growing all over the world since the pandemic, and it must stop.” 

“We have seen a similarly horrific rise in hate crimes against Black and brown people in the United States. Antisemitism is also on the rise – more than one third of American Jews say that they have been verbally or physically assaulted over the past five years simply because they are Jewish. In Europe, 90 percent of Jews feel that antisemitism has increased in their country. More than one in three have considered emigrating to escape that concern.  The sad truth is that racism begets more racism. We must stop this trend in its tracks,” the US top diplomat at the UN said.

“The powerful notion that diversity is a strength holds true for communities and countries everywhere. Growing up, I faced adversity. But that ultimately made me stronger. And as I made my way through life, I found I could flex my “adversity muscles” – I remembered how I dealt with adversity in the past, and it helped me move forward stronger and more determined. It is time for the world to flex its “adversity muscles” too.  

“Racism is a global problem and a local problem, but that also means that we can be united, together, in our fight against it. We have allies in this fight everywhere in the world. And that is the power – that is the power – of our international system. That is where the United Nations comes into play. The United Nations, as Ralph Bunche said in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, “exists not merely to preserve the peace but also to make change – even radical change – possible without violent upheaval.”  

“That is why the United States strongly supported the establishment of the Permanent Forum on the People of African Descent. It is why we strongly supported the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement. And it is why we must support real and radical change within the United Nations to eliminate racism and discrimination in all of its forms.  

“The United Nations is uniquely poised to galvanize change. This should be the place where we expose the racial discrimination endemic to our societies and to the world. This should be the venue where we recognize our shared humanity and work to remove the rot of racism from our foundations. And today, right now, right here, is the time to harness the energy, the optimism, and activism of the next generation, and to do everything – everything – in our power to leave them with a less hateful, more hopeful world,” she said.

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