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U.S. human rights: An illusion of the 'City on a hill'

2024-06-12 11:18:54Source: CGTNAuthor: Qiao Basheng
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States, October 11, 2023. /Xinhua
Editor's note: Qiao Basheng, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a researcher at the Research Center for External Publicity and Cultural Security, the School of National Security, the Human Rights Research Center, Northwest University of Political Science and Law in Xi’an. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.
June 12, 2024 -- The United States, known as the "City on a Hill," has always regarded itself as a "defender of human rights." Whether at international conferences or through various media channels, it has always held high the banner of human rights and criticized the human rights situation in other countries. However, when we take a closer look, we find that the human rights situation in the U.S. is far from being as rosy as it claims.
As the recently released Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2023 points out, the U.S. human rights situation has continued to deteriorate, moving in an increasingly polarized direction. The majority of people are increasingly marginalized, and their fundamental rights and freedoms are nullified compared to those of the politically, economically and socially dominant minority. According to 76 percent Americans, their country is on the wrong track.
Racial discrimination is deep-rooted. The U.S. describes itself as a "melting pot," emphasizing cultural diversity and inclusiveness. But in fact, racism still lurks in all corners and racial discrimination is still serious.
"Systemic racism against people of African descent pervades America's police forces and criminal justice system," a UN report on advancing racial justice and equality in law enforcement said last year. Due to severe racial discrimination in health services, the maternal mortality rate in women of African descent is almost three times that of white women. Nearly 60 percent of Asians also say they face racial discrimination.
Structural racism permeates all aspects of society, such as education, employment, and housing, and puts ethnic minorities in a socially disadvantaged position. Racist ideology has spread viciously across multiple platforms such as social media, music, and sports in the U.S., becoming a major exporter of extreme racism.
The gap between rich and poor is worrying. The U.S. has always glorified itself as a "land of opportunity" for ordinary people to pursue their dreams and realize their self-worth. But in fact, in the world's most developed country, the polarization between rich and poor is growing. Billionaires' fortunes continue to soar, while life for ordinary wage earners is getting tougher in the face of high medical costs, heavy student loans, and high rents.
File photo shows A protester holding a poster stands in front of the Capitol in Washington D.C., the United States. /Xinhua
According to the human rights report, there are 11.5 million low-income working families in the U.S., the federal minimum hourly wage has not been raised since 2009, and in 2023, the purchasing power of $1 had fallen to 70 percent of 2009 levels. More than 650,000 people are homeless. Economic inequality is not only a violation of the dignity of the individual, but also a violation of universal human rights.
The U.S. describes itself as a "beacon of democracy" and sees itself as a benchmark for defending freedom of speech and expression. However, in reality the suppression of freedom of speech and expression is frequent. On social media platforms, censorship and banning of speech is common, not only limiting the public's access to pluralistic expression, but also undermining the basis for free discussion. The mainstream media is swayed by commercial interests and political pressures, which is completely contrary to the spirit of free speech.
Freedom of speech on campus is also being challenged. Many universities, under the guise of so-called safe spaces and political correctness, restrict the freedom of expression of teachers and students. According to a survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, the number of faculty members punished or fired for speech or expression is at a 20-year high. The suppression of freedom of speech and expression has dimmed the "beacon of democracy."
While the U.S. claims to be the most desirable destination for global migrants, the humanitarian crisis in the border areas continues to escalate and the plight of migrants is appalling. The International Organization for Migration has listed the U.S. southern border as the world's deadliest overland migration route. In the 12 months ending September 30, 2023, the U.S. Border Patrol reported 149 migrant deaths in its El Paso sector. In fiscal year 2023, more than 2.4 million immigrants were apprehended or deported at the southern border.
Border policies exacerbate human trafficking, promote modern slavery, and expose migrant children to brutal forced labor and exploitation. These harsh realities have led many immigrants to discover that even after crossing mountains and rivers to come to the U.S., there is still a huge gap between dreams and reality.
Hegemonism, unilateralism and power politics create humanitarian crises. In international affairs, the U.S. presents itself as a "defender of freedom," pointing fingers at the human rights situation in other countries, and even resorting to sanctions, military intervention, and other means. However, the true effect and intent of these interventions is often questionable. There are many examples of how U.S. interventions often lead to more chaos and humanitarian crises.
The global war on "terrorism" waged by the U.S. has killed at least 4.5 million to 4.7 million people. The "proxy force" programs carried out by the U.S. military in more than a dozen countries violate the sovereignty and human rights of other countries. The continued supply of weapons to conflict zones has resulted in a large number of civilian casualties. The long-term and indiscriminate imposition of unilateral sanctions, the highest number of sanctions in the world, has caused serious humanitarian consequences.
The racial discrimination, wealth disparity, freedom of speech, and foreign policy in the United States is in stark contrast to its image as a "human rights defender." It also unveils the truth about American human rights hidden under the glorious illusion of the "City on a hill." Only by getting rid of illusion and facing reality squarely can the U.S. truly move towards a fair and just future.