Getting UN help on American civil rights is a great idea

18 July 2021

12:37 PM

18 July 2021

12:37 PM

The small-minded people who believe in freedom and democratic self-government have their shorts in a bunch over the Biden administration’s invitation to the United Nations to review our country’s civil-rights record. What a superb idea. Long overdue.

The countries filling the human rights bodies at the UN have the kind of expertise you can’t get by reading books or following the rule of law. You have to get that kind of experience in the streets. Police brutality? All you have to do is ask the leading members of the UN Human Rights Council like Cuba, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sudan and Venezuela. They know a thing or two about protecting civil rights. But why stop there?

Let’s say the US wants to know whether it is imprisoning religious minorities and forcing them to work as slaves. Well, you definitely want to ask China. They have practical, on-the-ground experience. If Chinese observers see us jailing all the Uighur Muslims in Vermont, they are gonna reprimand us right away. Personally, I want to know. I think most red-blooded Americans do. After all, we may be falling short of China’s standards.

As for press freedom, China is not the only country that can help us, although Beijing’s experience shutting down all independent publications in Hong Kong is surely useful. Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran can all pitch in. So can Belarus, Syria, Sudan and Libya. If any regimes understand what a free press really means, it’s them. It would be foolhardy to ignore their expertise.

Important as it is to work closely with these international partners, we should also ask for help from Facebook, Google and Twitter. They have particular experience dealing with stories that might affect election outcomes, such as discussing Hunter Biden’s laptop. They also knew that ‘loose lips sink ships’ in the early months of the COVID pandemic. That’s why they suppressed any mention that the pandemic may have come from a ‘lab leak’ in Wuhan. They knew it was pure disinformation. The more we learn, the more their wisdom shines through.

What about free assembly? Here again, the US is missing out on some great international experience. The United Nations can help by asking local police and their political bosses in Hong Kong, Moscow, Tehran, Caracas, Managua and Havana to review American procedures.

As for racial equity, I think we all stand with Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose scholarly expertise and nuanced knowledge of American history has been so helpful in designing the 1619 Project. In a podcast two years ago, she told Vox’s Ezra Klein, ‘If you want to see the most equal multiracial — it’s not a democracy — the most equal multiracial country in our hemisphere, it would be Cuba…Cuba has the least inequality between black and white people of any place really in the hemisphere.’ She’s so right. In Cuba, you don’t see millions of plutocrats driving around in Mercedeses while the poor masses are confined to Hondas and Toyotas, as they are in the United States. You don’t see the fat cats eating steaks while the masses have to eat hamburgers, chicken and barbeque. You don’t see some rich people with central air-conditioning while others have only window units. That kind of disparity is unknown in Cuba. It would be willful blindness for the Biden administration to pass up Cuba’s expertise on these equity issues.

The naysayers are wrong, and the Biden administration is right. The human rights expertise at the United Nations is too great to pass up. I just hope that America can live up to their good advice and shining examples.

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