Britain used last week’s commonwealth conference in Nigeria to lash out at Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, for alleged human rights abuses and undemocratic behaviour. The self-righteous rhetoric flowed thick and heavy, putting us all in mind, by implication at least, what a paradise of human rights Britain must be. Only not quite. Just weeks before Britain’s human-rights grandstanding in Nigeria, an undercover reporter for a British newspaper who had infiltrated the police fraternity by joining up as a recruit and going through police academy, documented shocking racism in Britain’s police services. One senior officer was caught on videotape saying how he would love to kill “pakis” and “niggers,” if only he could get away with it. Many others made similar statements, confirming what people of color in Britain know only too well: that when it comes to “justice” there are two tiers to the system: one for whites and another for people of color.
The same goes for Canada, the United States and Australia–”the countries that, ironically enough, make the most noise about human rights. Just a few days ago, Canadians caught a glimpse of how their own police treat blacks: the gloved fist of a white officer pummelling the face of an innocent black youth–”all of it caught on video by out-of-town tourists who just happened to be nearby. The images were sickening; igniting the same feelings of outrage I remember feeling after reading about how four New York cops pumped more than 40 bullets into an unarmed, innocent West African immigrant named Amadou Diallo. I happen to be Caucasian, but I can just imagine how incidents like this make all people of color feel. Where are their human rights?
By some estimates, American police kill as many as 2,000 people a year, the majority of them people of color. Occasionally, we even see it on videotape, as in the recent police beating death of a black man–”what else?–”in Cincinnati. In China, by comparison, which is a frequent target of American human rights lecturing, police killings of civilians are virtually unheard of. American media loudly and often criticize China for executing about 1,000 criminals a year, but at least those criminals get the benefit of a trial, unlike the 2,000 American civilians who are simply blown away on the streets by enforcers of the US “justice” system.
Which brings us back to Zimbabwe. Canadian press reports said the commonwealth came very close to fracturing over the issue. All of the African countries stood together in support of Zimbabwe, a very telling detail. But Britain (and Australia) continued to push, to the point where the survival of the commonwealth itself came into doubt. In the end Zimbabwe announced that it would quit the organization and good for them. One has to wonder just what good can come of this so-called commonwealth, this remnant of a colonial empire that brought untold human misery to Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.
It’s obvious that Britain and Australia see the commonwealth as simply a forum for pushing their neo-imperialist, pro-US agenda. Why, if they are so-concerned about human rights and African well-being do they not offer to help with Africa’s Aids epidemic? It is the shame of the modern world that Britain and America’s pharmaceutical industry is hoarding its drugs, while millions die. If you can’t pay, you don’t get drugs. Doesn’t matter how many millions of Africans die, it’s the millions (and billions) in profits that really count. This is the true measure of Britain and America’s humanity (or lack thereof), not some windblown puffery about human rights.
So what then is behind the attacks on Mugabe? The truth is that Mugabe is only the latest in a long line of bogeymen to be whacked by the “human rights” cudgel. Human rights rhetoric has long been a weapon of American imperialism. Long before the cruise missiles started raining down on Baghdad, the Iraqi government was demonized by a barrage of human rights accusations. Long before American warplanes started bombing Belgrade, Yugoslavia was thoroughly vilified on human rights. China and Russia are regularly singled out for human rights scorn, not to mention Cuba, or even Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.
Human rights. Funny how we never see those two little words used in the context of institutional racism in the US. Funny how those words don’t apply to the nearly two million blacks and Hispanics incarcerated in US prisons. The US spends many times more dollars on its so-called war on drugs than it does on social services for the poor, yet that’s not a human rights issue. American police ride herd in the ghettos in surplus military armoured personnel carriers, carrying submachine guns and blowing away black people like confetti–”but that’s not a human rights issue. America “defends” itself by attacking a country half way around the world that never did or could do harm to it, but that’s not a human rights issue. The thousands of civilians brutalized and killed–”and continuing to be killed on a daily basis–”in Iraq is not a human rights issue.
But Robert Mugabe redistributing some desperately needed productive land, to the slight detriment of colonial-era white farmers who still hold more than three quarters of the country’s arable land, now that’s a human rights issue? I’m sorry but it doesn’t add up. What we are seeing with all of this “human rights” rhetoric is really a new kind of supremacist doctrine. Call them the Human Rights Supremacists, because that’s what America and Britain have become. The idea is that “we” are superior to “them” because “we” have human rights and “they” don’t. Too bad it’s only a sick delusion. Just like delusions of racial superiority are complete nonsense, so too are these delusions of human rights superiority. America and Britain are societies with a long history of racism and it is obvious that the human rights supremacism that we are seeing from these societies today is really just a continuation of racism under another guise. Certainly the targets are the same, as Nelson Mandela recently pointed out: dark-skinned people in Iraq, Africa and elsewhere. And just like racism, human rights supremacism is used to dehumanize the target: first make them less than human, less worthy than yourself, and then it’s easy to kill them without guilt.