Prepared by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR)*

In its 234 years, the United States has elected one non-Caucasian president. The election of President Barack Obama, son of “a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas,” signified to many the world over an historic positive shift in U.S. race relations. Yet, while some claim a major victory over racism in the United States and President Obama publicly downplays racial bias in day-to-day politics, the many death threats he reportedly receives (400% more than his predecessor) and the frequent racist speech uttered in daily political commentary, mostly by white persons uncomfortable with an African-American president, expose a large need to reconsider the evidence of continuous racism in American society.

 2.5 — Multiplier of increased risk by which American Indian and Native Alaskan women are more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than all other women in the United States—due in part to inadequate cooperation among tribal, state, and federal agencies which, in turn, allows the sexual offenders (predominantly non-Indian) to escape the law with impunity (Amnesty International 2009; Amnesty International 2007)

 3 — Number of “black women” sentenced to prison for every “white woman” incarcerated in the U.S. (Amnesty International 2009)

12.48 — Median hourly dollar wage of “black” men in the U.S. in 2005 in contrast to “white” males ($17.42/hour on average)—the consequence of disparities in education, worker skills, range of experience, and other factors that themselves are commonly the result of racial discrimination (Urban Institute 2009)

 35 — Percent of total drug-related arrests in the U.S. with African-Americans taken into custody—and being arrested for drug offenses at a rate 3.5–3.9 times greater than that for Caucasian-American offenders (Human Rights Watch 2009)

 41 — Percent of “black” males imprisoned in the United States in 2006 (i.e., 2 of every 5 inmates in a U.S. prison population totaling 2 million) in contrast to “black” males constituting but 5.8% of the U.S. general population (Amnesty International 2007; U.S. Census Bureau 2005)

 43 — Percent of African-Americans graduated from United States colleges and universities in 2007 in contrast to a 20% higher number of Caucasian-Americans likewise graduated the same year—attributable to, among other things, inferior K-12 preparation, lower average family income, and consequent hardship with high student loan debts (The American Prospect 2007; The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 2006)

 368 — Number of words in proclamation of Virginia governor designating April 2010 as Confederate History Month to honor, he said, the state’s Civil War sacrifice and promote tourism, the first such commemoration from the capital city of the Confederate government since 2001—but widely viewed among pro-civil rights individuals and groups as “offensive and disturbing” for deliberately failing to mention slavery because, the governor said, at a time when Virginia’s “neo-Confederates” are refighting the Civil War, slavery (and by implication the plight of Virginia’s slaves) did not rank among the “most significant” aspects of Virginia’s secessionist past (N.Y. Times 2010)

 1,203 — Total number of executions in the U.S. from 1976 to April 28, 2010, of which 35% (418) of the defendants were African-American, 58% (244) of whom were convicted of capital crimes against Caucasian-Americans—substantial evidence, confirmed by numerous studies since 1972, that discrimination based on race persists in death penalty cases (on average, cases involving Caucasian-American victims are two times more likely to invite a death sentence than cases with minority victims), and notwithstanding that in 1972 the Supreme Court invalidated all death-sentencing statutes out of concern for racism in the application of the death penalty and that as many as 30 states subsequently revised their death penalty laws to meet reforms the Supreme Court prescribed (Criminal Law Bulletin 2003, DePaul Law Review 2004, Amnesty International 2007; Death Penalty Information Center 2010)

 4,956 — Number of racially motivated hate crimes in the United States in 2007, 69.3% against African-Americans, 18.3% against whites, 4.7% against Asian/Pacific Islanders, 1.5% against American Indians/Alaskan Natives, and 6.1% against racially mixed groups of individuals; out of 9,535 victims of hate crimes in 2007, almost half the victims were targets due to their race—one, the notorious instance of a 76-year-old man beaten with a sledgehammer by two teens and a white supremacist due solely to the victim’s race ( 2009, 2007)

 33,937 — Number of race discrimination workplace complaints received by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2008, during which year the EEOC resolved 28,321 employee complaints of this sort at a cost to taxpayers of $79.3 million in damages paid to the victims of workplace racial discrimination (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2009)


*Copyright © 2010 by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR). Prepared by Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and UICHR Senior Scholar Burns H. Weston with the generous assistance of Laura P. Lunn and Jennifer A. Wideman, students at the UI College of Law. For further information on human rights generally, please visit the UICHR web site.