U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield pledged Wednesday to prioritize efforts to combat racism at home and abroad, arguing at an event that America’s history of slavery “weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles.”
Thomas-Greenfield detailed the Biden administration’s push for racial equity during a speech at the National Action Network’s 2021 virtual convention. The ambassador said that in order for the United States to play an effective role in the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, it should first acknowledge its own challenges.
“When we raise issues of equity and justice at the global scale, we have to approach them with humility,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “We have to acknowledge that we are an imperfect union and have been since the beginning. Every day we strive to make ourselves more perfect and more just. In a diverse country like ours, that means committing to do the work. It means learning and understanding more about each other.”
The Biden administration rejoined the Human Rights Council in February, nearly three years after President Trump withdrew from the international body. The move drew criticism from GOP lawmakers, as well as Nikki Haley, a former US ambassador to the United Nations.
At the time, Haley said the Human Rights Council “covers for dictators and human rights abusers like Russia, China and Venezuela.”
Thomas-Greenfield referenced a recent speech she delivered to the UN General Assembly on its International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. During that address, she detailed her own experiences with racism.
The ambassador noted that she told the General Assembly her own great-grandmother “was the child of a slave just three generations back from me.” She added that she grew up in the segregated South in a neighborhood where “the Klan burned crosses on lawns.”
“I shared these stories and others to acknowledge, on the international stage, that I have personally experienced one of America’s greatest imperfections,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “I’ve seen for myself how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles.”
Thomas-Greenfield noted that white supremacy “led to the senseless killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black Americas.” States around the country have seen an uptick in hate crimes in recent years, she added.
“That’s why the Biden administration has made racial equity a top priority across the entire government, and I’m making a real focus of my tenure at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations,” she said. “But when I say racism is a problem in every society, that means looking beyond America’s borders, too.”