An Open Letter to President Obama: Your decision to not attend World Racism Conference is shameful and disgraceful

This article examines the hypocrisy of a president who claims to want to engage the global community. It speaks to the contradictions evident between his campaign comments and his refusal to not participate in the UN World Conference on Racism. Article concludes that the President cannot credibly be involved in world issues of race injustice as long as he walks lockstep (or behind) Israel.I simply could not believe my ears when I heard that the Obama Administration was not going to attend this year’s United Nations Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. I romantically thought that since the Bush Administration walked out on the Conference in 2001, you would actually attend yourself and even go meet with former South African President Mandela, make joint statements, etc. etc. I haven’t been this off on a whim in quite a long time.

Mr. President, I do not believe that you were obligated to attend the conference because you are the United States’ first African American President. That will never be a reason I would expect you to do anything. The reason your refusal to at least send a delegation to the conference is so disgraceful is because you claimed throughout the campaign that you wanted to engage the global community. Mr. President, engaging the global community doesn’t just mean going to meet world leaders and privileged college and high school students. When you’re traveling abroad, you have to also be engaged in speaking to issues that have served as the basis for many of the issues we face as a global community.

Mr. President, I am hard-pressed to find any other issues that have served to keep one group oppressed and the other in high esteem and privilege other than race and religion. These two words have been used to make slavery, the Holocaust, the Crusades, the Trail of Tears, the Armenian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and many other global atrocities acceptable. This conference seeks to affirm the right of all global people to have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as everyone else, yet your loyalty to Israel prevents you from taking part in this event. In truth, your loyalty to Israel should be the reason why you should attend.

I actually went and read the statement on racism by the Conference. The statement clearly acknowledges that it wants an end to anti-Semitism and anti-Arabism. It fully acknowledges that the Holocaust occurred and says it should”never be forgotten.” As a matter of a fact, here are the statements from the
62-page document
that your administration has been working to change for the past few months:

“We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation. We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State and we recognize the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, and call upon all States to support the peace process and bring it to an early conclusion–As for the situation in the Middle East, calls for the end of violence and the swift resumption of negotiations, respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, respect for the principle of self-determination and the end of all suffering, thus allowing Israel and the Palestinians to resume the peace process, and to develop and prosper in security and freedom”

What more can be said Mr. President? Do you want the statement to say: “We acknowledge that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is completely the fault of the Palestinians.”? The statement they provided above could not at least get you to send a delegation? Attending the Conference does not mean that you have to sign on to everything. Attending means you simply contribute to the dialogue on “Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.” Mr. President, as you well know, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the only conflict in the world. The Conference also deals with issues such as child labor and sex trafficking.

Mr. President, as long as you continue to walk lockstep with (or behind) Israel, you will never be able to credibly engage the world community on issues of race and injustice. Though Israel has suffered tremendously during this conflict, you and I are smart enough to know that whenever there are adults engaged in a conflict, the only people who are 100% innocent are the children. As it has been said, when two elephants battle it’s the grass that gets trampled. Your administration needs to seriously reevaluate how you choose to engage the global community and you can start by recognizing the grievous mistake you made by boycotting this conference.