Racial Justice

Amnesty International USA is fighting for racial justice – demanding law enforcement reform & accountability for police brutality & deadly force.


Last updated on February 22, 2024

(Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

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What is the problem?

Slavery formally ended in 1865, but the painful truth is that the legacy of the institution of slavery continues and undermines all efforts to progress and racial equity in the U.S. more than 150 years later.

The terror of more than 400 years of systemic racism, white supremacy,  discriminatory legislation, redlining, and mass incarceration have robbed generations of Black families of wealth, property, and their human rights. And racist acts of police violence continue to disproportionately rob Black Americans of their most fundamental human right: The right to life.

The trauma and violence that has wreaked havoc on Black lives and communities in the U.S. cannot be undone. Painful events stemming from long-standing racism, white supremacy, and excessive force against the Black community have underscored what many have known and experienced for too long: the world we live in is filled with great injustice and great inhumanity.

We are in a crisis. And our response must be swift and meaningful.

By the numbers
Black people represent about 13% of the US population, yet they represent 24% of deaths from police use of firearms

By the numbers
2.2 times
Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.2 times more likely to be raped than non-Hispanic white women

By the numbers
Black people represent approximately 41% of the nearly 2,300 people on state and federal death rows

Why is this an issue?

Racism unchecked can lead to large scale tragedies.

Racism is the product of unequal power relations, which lead to human rights violations and barriers to accessing rights. While addressing individual harm is fundamental to providing remedies and reparations, racism is systemic throughout the globe, held up by policies and practices that exist throughout society that create and support continued advantages to some and disadvantages to others.

All over the world the connection between racism and brutality by the state is clear. In many countries ethnic minorities often suffer harassment, ill-treatment and torture at the hands of police. They then go on to face unfair trials, discriminatory sentencing and harsh punishments, including the death penalty.

The types of violence and discrimination people experience because of their race or racialized status can include:

  • Racist state violence
  • Racist policing and overcriminalization, including the disproportionate killing of racialized groups by police
  • Targeting of religious and cultural minorities
  • Exclusion from meaningful economic activity 
  • Exploitation of land, resources, and labor 
  • Racist migration policies and border controls

Who is most impacted?

Around the world, racialized groups, often racial minorities, bear the brunt of inequality created and upheld by systemic racism that overwhelmingly advantages white people through legal, financial (including employment and housing), health, and governmental structures.

People do not experience exclusion, inequality and human rights violations only based on one of their identities. Structural discrimination, for example based on sex, gender, race, class, or caste, or other grounds, does not operate in isolation; individuals may suffer additional or unique forms of discrimination due to a combination of different forms of discrimination they are subjected to.

In the United States, for example, a study from the National LGBTQ Taskforce showed that 34% of Black transgender people lived in extreme poverty; more than twice the rate for transgender people of all races (15%), four times the general Black population rate (9%), and eight times the general U.S. population rate (4%).

No one should be treated differently because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion or belief, political or other opinion, ethnicity, national or social origin, disability, or other status.  Everyone has the right to equal treatment.  

What is the solution?

We must work towards systemic change and solutions in targeting the root causes of oppression based on race as they intersect with, among others, patriarchy, legacy of colonialism and slavery as well as economic inequality. Our work centers around efforts to:

  • Demand systemic reform of the U.S. system of policing so we can root out racism and stop human rights violations.
  • Advocate for people most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – including Black and Brown people, and asylum-seekers detained in crowded facilities with inadequate access to hygiene and medical care.
  • Campaign to protect people’s right to peaceful protest – both in the U.S. and across the world, including in Hong Kong and Brazil.

People who are historically and systematically discriminated against must enjoy equality in law and practice and be protected from structural and intersecting discriminations and inequalities. 

Governments around the world, including here in the United States, must ensure justice and redress including through the removal of racist laws, policies and practices, and guarantee equality in access to economic and social rights. Governments must take measures to end the over-policing and overcriminalization of discriminated people and communities and aim for substantive equality between individuals and communities.

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