We charge the United States government with the crime of genocide against the negro people were the words cried out by the silent voices of those who had suffered those who had died and those left to speak on the behalf of the former and latter.
Even more distressing than the message was the non-response of that international assembly for whom this message was intended. Those silent voices still exist and, to this day, reverberate across the span of decades, unanswered.
Nearly 60-years ago, an unprecedented event took place at the fifth session of the United Nation’s General Assembly. William L. Patterson presented a petition to the aforementioned international body in hopes of bringing to light crimes against humanity as propagated by the United States Government. It was also the first time in its history that the United States of America faced a formal and albeit international accusation of genocide.
The content of this petition, in its entirety, can be found in a book entitled, We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government against the Negro People.
Part One of this book closely replicates a criminal justice proceeding as it offers an opening statement similar to what one would find in a criminal court proceeding. Patterson outlines the case against the U.S. Government including a brief summary of the evidentiary proof in support of this charge.
Part Two of Patterson’s petition examines the United Nation General Assembly’s Resolution 260 (III) and the Articles contained therein. On December 9, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly had adopted Resolution 260 (III) by way of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Part Three of the book entitled, We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government against the Negro People, is a painstaking compilation of evidentiary documentation that stretches over 138 pages. Utilizing the United Nation’s very own definition and examples contained therein, Patterson assembles an intricately woven latticework wherein indelible images emerge. In the original petition, William Patterson offered details of summary executions and mass killings carried out by both civilians and law enforcement alike.
Part Four is the closing argument or summary and an invocation to prayer. The prayer is an invocation of peace and justice. It is a request, an imploring that this international body recognizes its very own Convention as it relates to the presentment of evidentiary proof. It is a prayer for hope that peaceful times shall prevail and that people will live in harmony.
In 1970, the following passage was added as the New Forward of the latest edition of We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government against the Negro People.
The Petition called upon the UN to take notice of the fact that even a cursory examination would reveal the savage racist policy that determines the attitude and reaction of city, state and federal governments in their relations with black nationals. At each of these political levels the human dignity of blacks is flouted and full enjoyment of their Constitutional rights denied. Blacks faced institutions of government that were steeped in racism — The UN did not respond to the Petition. Profound changes, however, have taken place in the world since 1951. At the same time, racism has grown consistently more vicious. It now constitutes a basic feature of the drive of U.S. reaction toward a fascist-like police state. -William L. Patterson (1)
In order to fully understand Patterson’s argument, it is essential that one possesses an understanding of the term genocide.
On December 9, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 260 (III) by way of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Resolution 260 (III) and the Articles contained therein attempt to define genocide and what related acts are punishable. (2)
The intent of Article II is to formulate a rudimentary extensional definition of genocide. Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
According to Article III of that same convention, the following acts are punishable:Genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, complicity in genocide.
Article IV contains the following statement. Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article Three shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.
Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, served with the United Nations Security Council as a primary investigator in several genocidal events. Stanton developed what he called the Eight Stages of Genocide.
Stanton identified classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination and denial as the eight key stages to historic genocidal events. (3)
Classification includes creating categories to distinguish people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality.
Symbolization includes giving names or using symbols in support of those classifications. Stanton does offer the caveat that classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to the next stage, dehumanization.
Dehumanization occurs when one group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group.
Organization of genocidal actions, usually by the state, use groups such as militias, mobs or terrorist to provide deniability of state responsibility. In some cases, special army units or militias are often trained and armed to carry out the genocidal killings.
Polarization occurs when extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center.
Preparations commence when victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. Members of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is expropriated. They are often segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved.
Extermination begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human. When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing.
Denial is the eighth stage that always follows genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims.
Did William L. Patterson have a viable case against the U.S. Government? What is one to understand in the non-responsiveness of the United Nations? Is Gregory H Stanton correct about the eighth stage also known as denial and further genocidal massacres? Did the citizenry’s denial of U.S. government’s genocidal acts against the native people of North America create a precedent and lead the way toward genocidal acts against black Americans? With hate crimes against Muslims and Middle Easterners are on the rise, will they fall prey to our intolerance and become the newest victims of our denial?
The flames beneath the American “melting pot” were blown out by the maelstrom of economic hardship; and its contents have cooled as different factions coalesce into their distinctive origins leaving us in a state less united.
1) We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government against the Negro People. Contributors: Civil Rights Congress ‘” organization name. Publisher: International Publishers. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1970.
2) http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.htmlLegal UN Convention of Genocide
3) http://www.genocidewatch.org/aboutgenocide/8stagesofgenocide.htmlBy Gregory H. Stanton, President, Genocide Watch