Main languages: English, Spanish, other languages (see under minority groupings below)
Main religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam
According to the 2010 Census, the main minority and indigenous population groups in the United States (US) include:
Hispanic or Latino: 50.5 million (16.3 per cent of the population, including Mexicans 10.3 per cent, Puerto Rican 1.5 per cent, Cuban 0.6 per cent and Other 4.0 per cent)
Black or African Americans: 42 million (13.6 per cent: this includes 12.6 per cent identifying solely as Black/African American and another 1 per cent Black/African American in combination with another race)
Asian Americans: 17.3 million (5.6 per cent including those identifying in combination with another race: 4.8 per cent identify only as Asian, including Asian Indian 0.9 per cent, Chinese 1.1 per cent, Filipino 0.8 per cent, Japanese 0.2 per cent, Korean 0.5 per cent, Vietnamese 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent Other Asian)
Native Americans: (categorized as ‘American Indian and Alaska Native’ in the Census) 5.2 million (1.7 per cent, including 0.9 per cent who identify solely in this category, along with others in combination with another race)
Native Hawai’ians and Other Pacific Islanders: 1.2 million (0.4 per cent, with 0.2 per cent identifying solely in this category: Native Hawai’ians 0.1 per cent, Guamanian or Chamarro, Other Islanders) (2010 Census)
Arab and other Middle Eastern Americans: the total number of Arab Americans was estimated at 1.7 million (0.5 per cent) in the 2010 American Community Survey on ancestry, including Arab 290,900, Egyptian 190,100, Iraqi 106,000, Jordanian 61,700, Lebanese 502,000, Moroccan 82,100, Palestinian 93,400, Syrian 148,200 and Other Arab 224,200. In addition, the 2010 survey estimated there to be 463,600 Iranian, 474,600 Armenian, 106,800 Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac and 195,300 Turkish – though in many cases informal or independent estimates have suggested the communities are in fact higher. The Census currently does not collect disaggregated data on Arab and Middle Eastern communities as (with the exception of figures on Latino/non-Latino populations) it focuses on race rather than country of origin. While the Census Bureau has acknowledged the need to improve data collection on these communities, it announced in January 2018 that there would not be Middle Eastern or North African in the 2020 Census: this was seen as a setback by advocates for their inclusion, given the importance of accurate data for public representation, though some community members were wary of this data being collected in the current political climate.
The US presents a minority and indigenous situation of unusual diversity and complexity. There are seven key minority and indigenous groupings: Latinos (including Puerto Ricans), African Americans, Asian Americans, Arab and other Middle Eastern Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawai’ians and other Pacific Islanders, and Alaska Natives. In most cases, these groupings include multiple distinct communities.
There are dozens of other distinctive ethnic and religious groups in the US. While some are small immigrant groups that do not yet have sufficient numbers and history to attract notice, others have been relatively successful in reaching accommodation with the dominant population and cannot be said to suffer significant discrimination as minorities in the US today.
Irish, Italian, Polish and other Roman Catholic European immigrants, for example, encountered serious prejudice prior to the Second World War, but have now integrated as ‘whites’. Often these groups have maintained their cultural cohesion while achieving economic advancement.
The Jewish population encompasses both those who practice the Jewish faith and those who identify as Jewish in cultural or ethnic terms. According to US Census Bureau estimates, in 2010 the Jewish population was a little over 6.5 million. However, some demographic studies by Jewish organizations suggest slightly lower figures. Anti-Semitism in the US was widespread and embedded in social and economic structures as recently as the mid-1960s. Today, however, Jews partake in every aspect of life, including political and social institutions and the media. Nevertheless, organized anti-Semitic violence occurs through hate-group activity.
Other religious communities – including Buddhists, Amish, Quaker, Dukhobor and Bruderhoffer Christians, Christian Scientists, Hare Krishnas, Mormons, Muslims, Native Americans who practice their traditional religions and spiritual beliefs, and Scientologists – have encountered barriers to the free practice of their faith in the past. However, jurisprudence has affirmed these groups’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion, including tax exemption. The pacifist Amish and Quakers were guaranteed freedom from compulsory service under the 1950s and 1960s military draft, and the Amish and other traditionalist religious groups have prevailed against pressures to abandon their rural, independent lifestyles.
The evangelical Christian population in the US has burgeoned in recent years, resulting in political trends that trouble religious liberty advocates. For example, there have been popular conservative campaigns on the teaching of intelligent design in place of Darwinism and compulsory prayer in public schools, and for ‘family values’ policies generally. Some operations against religious cults have been criticized for blurring the line between enforcing the law and enforcing moral and religious conformity.
Finally, according to US government statistics, which often undercount by slotting mixed-race people into one category or another, people of mixed race made up a growing proportion of US society, rising from 1 per cent in 1968 to 2.4 per cent in 2000 and 2.9 per cent of the population in 2010. Mixed-race people face particular emotional and social challenges in the rigid grid of US race relations.
Updated July 2020
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The metaphor of the ‘melting pot’ is commonly used to describe the United States (US) and its diverse religious, ethnic and indigenous communities. But while this accurately reflects the rich demographic variety of a country that by 2044 will be ‘majority minority’, with no single ethnic group making up more than 50 per cent of the population, it fails to capture a variety of entrenched social and economic disparities between different groups. From education to health care, employment to politics, inequality and division continue to characterize ethnic and religious relations within the US.
These issues have only deepened since the election of Donald Trump as President. Among the many groups vilified by Trump are Muslims, Mexicans, Haitians and other minorities, all of whom have been the subject of vicious attacks both during his campaign and since he took office in January 2017. While much of his public appeal was built on appeals to ‘Make American Great Again’, a slogan widely seen by critics as an appeal to nativist sentiment among white voters in particular, Trump has also repeatedly equated different minorities with crime, terrorism and illegal immigration.
During his election campaign and since taking office, Trump has repeatedly drawn a link between Mexican immigrants and increased crime rates in the US. However, while the data on crime rates and their correlation to numbers of immigrants is incomplete, the evidence that is available does not support Trump’s claims. In fact, while immigration has increased since the 1990s, crime has decreased and crime levels among first-generation immigrants appear to be lower than those among native-born Americans. Trump’s aggressive rhetoric has had implications not only for the country’s undocumented immigrants but also the broader Latino community, who still struggle with a legacy of discrimination that is reflected in higher poverty levels, lower household incomes and racist abuse: studies suggest that since Trump’s election hate crimes against Latinos have soared, with the Department of Justice recording an increase of more than 50 per cent in the number of hate crimes in California alone in 2017 compared to the previous year.
Nevertheless, a mainstay of Trump’s political agenda has been an aggressive crackdown on immigration, reflected in his promise to build a wall along the country’s border with Mexico. While efforts to begin construction have been stalled, since taking office Trump has initiated a very public effort to detain immigrants without documentation and expanded the powers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to detain suspects. Though some of these policies have precedents in those of previous governments – indeed, deportations during the early years of the Obama administration exceeded levels under Trump – the harshness of these policies (such as the widespread practice of child separations, carried out until a public outcry led to the abandonment of the policy in June 2018) has attracted widespread criticism.
Muslims have also been the repeated targeted of Trump’s hostile and divisive rhetoric. This has resulted not only in increased levels of popular antipathy towards Muslims and other minorities, reflected in a sharp rise in reported levels of hate crime, but also led to a number of unprecedented measures aimed at reducing the number of Muslims in the country. This includes the notorious travel ban first imposed by the Trump administration in January 2017, including an immediate suspension of travel from seven Muslim majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days, as well as a reduction in the number of refugees to be welcomed into the country. The ban was subsequently amended, following repeated blocks by federal courts, to include restrictions on citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as North Korea and various officials from Venezuela.
These developments have instilled fear within immigrant communities and appear to have emboldened certain segments of the population to engage in attacks, not only against immigrant communities but against other minority groups in the country. While the White House has denied playing any role in inciting violence against any minority groups, critics have accused Trump of effectively validating right-wing groups by failing to disassociate his administration from extremist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan who have long supported him – charges that have only intensified since Trump’s failure to adequately condemn white supremacist demonstrators after the killing of a peaceful anti-fascist demonstrator by a right-wing militia member in September 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In October 2018, 11 people were killed in what is believed to be the worst attack on the Jewish community in US history. A gunman, Robert Bowers, opened fire on the congregation of Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as it had gathered for a baby-naming ceremony. The attack occurred against a stark backdrop of dramatically increased anti-Semitic hate; the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had recorded a 57 per cent rise in incidents in 2017. For the first time in 10 years, the ADL had received reports of anti-Semitic incidents from each of the US’s 50 states. In fact, Squirrel Hill had been targeted with an anti-Semitic hate campaign – including cards and stickers bearing Nazi symbols and white nationalist slogans – a year before the attack on its synagogue.
For certain immigrant and refugee groups, the rising hostility towards migrants – reinforcing existing patterns of discrimination – has resulted in their increased isolation and marginalization. This is strikingly displayed in Minnesota, where levels of poverty among the white population has remained low over the past three decades and as of 2014 was at 5.2 per cent, while the percentage of African Americans living in poverty spiked in 1990 and has since risen again to 35.5 per cent. The state is home to the country’s largest population of resettled Somali refugees, who have reported barriers in accessing education and healthcare, with 57 per cent living under the poverty line compared to 11 per cent of the Minnesota population as a whole. Yet, instead of addressing the underlying causes of these inequalities, Trump has stoked divisions between the Somali population and the larger community by singling them out as a source of recruitment by terrorist groups.
The rhetoric concerning migrants and refugees became ever more heated during 2018. During the autumn, Trump used a caravan of Central American migrants that was moving northwards towards the US-Mexican border as an excuse for espousing his idea of a border wall. The original group comprised 5,000 people but splintered into smaller clusters. Approximately 300 initially arrived at the border in November, after Trump had issued an executive order that persons crossing the border illegally were ineligible for asylum (a move that contradicts well-established norms in international refugee law). More followed and new groups joined the caravan, with more than 7,000 having arrived at the border by the end of November. The movement comprised mainly people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Hondurans; while some dreamt of a better future, many were fleeing persecution and violence. Trump stoked xenophobic attitudes as the caravan approached the border, using it to push ideas of constructing a wall. Amongst other things, he stated that there were ‘Middle Easterners’ mixed in with the caravan of refugees heading towards the US border – again without proof, something which he later admitted. Sadly, these messages appeared to have an impact: a survey conducted in October 2018 concluded that a quarter of Americans believed that the migrant group ‘includes terrorists’.
Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that many of the challenges facing minorities and indigenous peoples in the US predate the current administration, and are rooted in long histories of discrimination and exclusion. This is the case for the large African–American minority who continue to be disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system: for example, African Americans are more than five times as likely as their white counterparts to be incarcerated. However, a major shift in nationwide consciousness of the role race plays in the justice system has taken place in recent years following a spate of highly publicized shootings of unarmed African Americans by police. Nevertheless, incidents of police brutality against ethnic minorities, as well as debates surrounding institutionalized racial bias within the US law-enforcement system, continue: while data related to police shootings is not transparently or uniformly collected by the government, independent datasets developed by various media outlets have tracked the high numbers of African Americans and other ethnic minorities killed by police. The Mapping Police Violence project found that some 1,147 people were killed by police in 2017, 25 per cent of whom were black – around double their share of the national population. Significantly, a spate of highly publicized police killings of unarmed African Americans, many of them young men, has mobilized a strong activist response in protest. This includes the BlackLivesMatter movement, founded in 2013 on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African–American teenager. Alongside a variety of other civil society organizations, it has played a crucial role in highlighting the continued violence suffered by black communities at the hands of law enforcement.
Other communities have also faced similar issues: for example, in recent years indigenous people have been killed by law enforcement at nearly the same rate as African Americans. While garnering little to no media attention, indigenous activists have utilized the hashtag #NativeLivesMatter to galvanize support within their community and to highlight the disproportionate levels of police brutality experienced by some of the 5.2 million indigenous people in the country. As is the case with African Americans, these incidents occur against a broader backdrop of social disenfranchisement: 26.2 per cent of indigenous people were living below the poverty line in 2016, compared to a national average of 14 per cent, and with more than 70 per cent of indigenous people residing in urban areas these high poverty rates are now experienced significantly within metropolitan settings. Furthermore, indigenous people living in urban areas also encounter increased impediments to accessing education, employment and health care: for instance, only about 1 per cent of spending by the Indian Health Service is allotted to urban programmes. While these issues intersect with some of the inequalities experienced by ethnic minorities in urban areas, indigenous peoples have experienced discrimination where ethnic minorities have found opportunities, particularly in relation to accessing urban labour markets.
The historic problem of land rights violations also persists for Native American communities, with efforts by certain groups to halt the expansion of oil pipelines on or near their land receiving international attention. This includes the recent demonstrations against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, led by Standing Rock Sioux alongside Jicarilla Apache, Oglala Sioux and Oglala Lakota and others. Despite widespread violence and evictions, the protests appeared to have achieved some success by the end of 2016, with the pipeline’s expansion put on hold. But after the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency in January 2017, the situation rapidly deteriorated as Trump signed an executive order removing impediments to the pipeline’s construction. In the weeks that followed, the environmental impact assessment and public consultation were put to one side as the remaining protestors were evicted to make way for the pipeline, which by April 2017 was completed. The demonstrations were notable for the extraordinary levels of violence meted out by public and private security personnel, with hundreds of protestors wounded by rubber bullets, water cannon and guard dogs, some with lasting injuries. Protestors continue to face severe repercussions as a number of activists involved in the demonstrations have been handed down lengthy prison sentences on charges of rioting and trespass.
Updated July 2020
The United States (US) is situated in North America. It is bounded by the North Atlantic Ocean to the east, the North Pacific Ocean to the west, Mexico to the south, and Canada to the north. Alaska also borders Canada, with the Pacific Ocean to its south and the Arctic Ocean to its north. The island state of Hawai’i is situated in the Pacific, south-west of the North American mainland. The is the world’s third-largest country by size (after Russia and Canada) and by population (after China and India).
The US was founded in 1776 with the American Declaration of Independence, including the basic tenets that the equality of all people is ‘self-evident’ and that human rights, including ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, are ‘inalienable’. The US Constitution’s first ten amendments, or the Bill of Rights, provide for equal access to a broad range of civil rights and liberties. The thirteenth amendment prohibits slavery; the fourteenth entrenches the due process of law and equal protection for all.
Despite these protections, slavery persisted for decades after independence, especially in the south, where the powerful plantation system depended on a large supply of slave labour. This issue would eventually contribute to the growing antipathy between North and South, culminating in the American Civil War (1861-65) and the signing by President Abraham Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation, formally bringing an end to slavery in most states. Despite this, however, segregation, disenfranchisement and violence against the African–American population has persisted, particularly in the south, where profoundly racist attitudes towards black Americans continues to shape every aspect of their lives.
The Native American population, indigenous to the present-day US for thousands of years, had already suffered violence, land dispossession and the spread of diseases such as smallpox at the hands of European colonists long before independence. However, these practices persisted throughout the 19th century as the US government and military oversaw a steady process of land grabbing, military assaults and broken treaties that ultimately led to the seizure of the majority of indigenous territory and the decimation of the Native American population, many of whom were resettled in reservations where, uprooted from the lands that sustained their livelihoods and traditions, poverty and other problems such as alcoholism and mental illness proliferated.
Until the mid-twentieth century, disenfranchisement of women and minority groups, dispossession of indigenous peoples, official segregation, discrimination in education, employment and housing, and unequal access to public services continued to characterize minority and indigenous experiences in the US. Indeed, the US Supreme Court repeatedly endorsed these practices as legal and acceptable.
After the Second World War, however, the Supreme Court shifted its stance radically. The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case (1954) ended official school segregation and is widely seen as a huge step forward for general social integration. This landmark case was broadened by later rulings extending desegregation into other areas and requiring governments to take a proactive stance in integrating ethnic minority groups and providing equal opportunity.
These decisions were both the product of and the engine for an extraordinary period of minority activism for civil and political rights. Eventually, minority demands were recognized in new legislation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, colour and creed in voting, employment, federal programmes and public facilities. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 included a series of measures intended to short-circuit racist attempts to exclude minorities from political life. At the same time, the administration of President Lyndon Johnson launched the Great Society anti-poverty campaign, including expanded social welfare programmes and equal employment opportunity laws. Over the next decade, governments and courts reinforced these new laws in policy, and the US recognized (limited) indigenous sovereignty rights for the first time since the colonial period.
New methods of registering voters were promoted as a way to bolster minority electoral participation in the US. The 1965 Voting Rights Act mandated the redrawing of voting districts to benefit minorities. The Act is a cornerstone of the civil rights era and was adopted to stop the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters, particularly in the South, through barriers such as poll taxes and literacy tests. The National Voter Registration Act was passed in 1994, after long resistance from the Republican Party. By allowing voters to register when they obtain drivers’ licences or at social service offices, this ‘Motor Voter Act’ more than tripled the pace of registrations in 1995.
During the 1990s, however, affirmative action became a pivotal issue: in 1995, California Governor Pete Wilson launched a suit against the federal government protesting against mandatory affirmative-action programmes for state governments. This was followed by a number of influential court decisions reversing affirmative-action policies, resulting in a sharp drop in enrolment of minority students, particularly African Americans and Latinos. In June 2007 the Supreme Court reversed the landmark desegregation judgement of 1954 by ruling that race cannot be used as a factor in school entry. The majority of the judges argued that racial classifications perpetuated the very divisions they were put in place to dissolve. The decision followed protests from white parents whose children had been denied entry to schools because they would have exceeded a quota of non-black pupils.
US minorities generally shared a common pattern of experience since the 1960s. Civil rights movements brought cultural awareness, community organization and political participation. A small percentage of each group entered the middle class – often leaving traditional ethnic neighbourhoods for the suburbs – but the less well-educated and financially secure saw their communities and personal fortunes sink. Open hostility towards inner-city minority groups and especially Hispanic immigrants has intensified. By the 1990s many people had become disillusioned with the integrationist ideals and welfare state programmes of the 1960s. Nationalist and separatist sentiments among minorities began to proliferate and many insecure middle-class whites succumbed to suburban defensiveness, whose extremes are manifested in the growth of ‘gated communities’ with protective walls and private security forces, ironically in some cases constructed with significant use of undocumented immigrant labour.
The combination of decreased urban aid, increased policing and cultural misunderstanding at times proved explosive. Riots in Los Angeles and Miami in the early 1990s were touched off by police brutality in economically deprived communities. Meanwhile, the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma attributed to members of white-supremacist ‘citizen militias’ – along with continuing evidence of neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan and other organized racist activity – hinted at the extremes of white backlash. Racial discrimination was also evident is in the sphere of criminal justice policies and practice, with widespread racial profiling by the police, immigration and airport officials. Concerns about the extraordinarily high incarceration rates and long sentence periods for African–American and Latino minorities have remained ongoing for decades.
Following the events of 11 September 2001, when 19 plane hijackers belonging to the terrorist group al-Qaeda launched a series of attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and other targets, resulting in the deaths of some 3,000 people and injuring thousands of others. The US responded by launching its ‘War on Terror’, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan the next month and subsequently expanding to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time, US authorities introduced domestic legislation to address homeland security, including the Patriot Act I and II. This legislation impacted negatively upon minority people, specifically Muslims and people of Middle Eastern or South Asian heritage. The political and social culture in the US likewise had a chilling effect upon the activities of these communities: men and women reportedly attended mosque less frequently or stopped completely and whole families left for their home countries, sometimes under unsafe conditions.
An extraordinary landmark for the country’s minorities took place in November 2008 when Democratic senator Barack Hussein Obama, an African American (partly of Kenyan heritage) became the first person from an ethnic minority to be elected President. Media estimates are that about 20 per cent (5.8 million) more ethnic minorities voted in the November 2008 election compared to 2004. Obama received 96 per cent of the African–American vote, 67 per cent of the Latino/Hispanic vote and 63 per cent of the Asian–American vote. The ethnic minority voters overwhelmingly favoured the campaign’s focus on social and economic issues: access to employment, health and quality education. Obama was re-elected in 2012 and served as President until 2016. While some of his original supporters criticized him for his failure to fully address the inequalities and injustices faced by the country’s minorities and indigenous peoples, as well as implement comprehensive immigration reform, his administration nevertheless oversaw a range of progressive reforms.
Some of these developments were, however, hampered by sustained opposition from Republican politicians during his time in power. Furthermore, much of Obama’s legacy has been under threat following the election of Donald Trump as President after his surprise victory against Hillary Clinton in November 2016. Since taking power in January 2017, Trump has implemented a range of measures targeting Muslims, undocumented migrants and other groups, building on the sustained and divisive rhetoric of his electoral campaign. This includes the notorious travel ban, originally imposed in January 2017 on seven Muslim majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – subsequently amended, following repeated blocks by federal courts, to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as North Korea and various officials from Venezuela. Trump has also undertaken a number of measures targeting undocumented migrants, primarily from Mexico and Central America, including the attempted closure of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, an initiative developed under Obama to provide the children of undocumented migrants with provisional access to education and employment until further measures was put in place in future to regularize their status.
Largely, although not entirely, a nation of immigrants, the US’s concepts of civil rights, integration, universal equality and independence have influenced human rights around the globe. Dominance by the white Christian majority has been a constant since North America was colonized in the sixteenth century. Since US independence in 1776, government policy has evolved from a basis in slavery and conquest, through segregation and exploitation, into an official stance favouring minority integration.
However, the US has been reluctant to make international commitments to minority rights. It has often delayed ratifying UN accords for decades after signing them. Only in the early 1990s did the US finally ratify the UN Convention against Torture, the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The US is also party to the American Declaration on the Rights of Man, which contains a general statement against discrimination.
It is well-documented that the US legal system discriminates against minorities, especially in criminal cases. The 1992 police beating of Rodney King and the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson were particular flashpoints. Other frequently cited examples include: the wildly disparate sentencing patterns in convictions for possession of crack cocaine (associated with non-white users) and powder cocaine (used mostly by whites); the disproportionate imprisonment of black, Latino and Native American convicts compared to whites; and the more frequent use of the death sentence against non-whites.
In other areas, the criminal justice system’s disparate treatment of minorities has also attracted significant coverage in recent years. People of colour are treated more harshly within every aspect of the criminal justice system, from police contacts to sentencing. ‘Zero-tolerance’ policies in schools often result in a large number of minority and disabled students being channeled into the juvenile justice system, while drug sentencing guidelines can lead to harsher punishments for minority offenders. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act to reduce the large (100:1) disparity in sentencing requirements for powder versus crack cocaine; this had had an adverse impact on people of colour, who were disproportionately likely to be accused of possessing or selling crack cocaine.
Another area of controversy is the existence in many states of ‘stand your ground’ laws, which allow people to use deadly force in self-defence even if they could have safely retreated from the situation, have also been criticized for their potential bias against ethnic minorities. This issue came into focus in the summer of 2013 when George Zimmerman, a Floridian of mixed race, was tried for the killing the previous year of an unarmed African–American teenager, Trayvon Martin. Many critics claimed that Zimmerman’s actions were motivated by a racist assumption that Martin was dangerous merely because of his race: Zimmerman was subsequently found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Although the federal government considered hate crime charges against Zimmerman, these were never issued.
More recently, since the election of Donald Trump as President, the focus on immigration – for years one of the most contested areas of national policy – has become even more divisive. One of the first steps following his inauguration was the signing of an Executive Order banning all people with non-immigrant or immigrant visas from seven Muslim majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days. It additionally stopped the entry of all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely banned people from Syria. Beyond the bans, the order also reduced the total quota for refugees the country would resettle in 2017 from 110,000 to 45,000 in 2018 and included language to prioritize refugee claims based on religious persecution but only if the applicant is part of a religious minority in their home country. The Executive Order received an immediate backlash and was also identified as a Muslim ban due to the prioritization of religious minorities. Opponents argued that, besides disregarding the many Muslims in need of sanctuary, the ban could also pose serious risks for Christian minorities in the Middle East by exacerbating existing divisions. The refugee resettlement quota was reduced further – to 30,000 – for 2019.
Updated July 2020
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (Human Rights and Genocide Clinic)
Center for the Study of Urban Poverty, UCLA-Institute for Social Science Research
Human Rights Watch/Americas
World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights/Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education
Black Lives Matter
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
Tel: +1 202 789 3500
The National Urban League
Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Arab and other Middle Eastern Americans
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Arab American Institute
Arab Community Centre for Economic and Social Services
National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
World Jewish Congress
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
No More Deaths
Native American Rights Fund
National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
National Tribal Justice Resource Center
Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i
The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN)
Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC)
Updated July 2020
- United States: For Black Americans, unionization continues to offer the hope of better working conditions (2022)
- Minority and Indigenous Trends 2021 – United States: For decades, Black Americans have been living through a public health crisis (2021)
- United States: Equitable smart city design in San Francisco (2020)
- United States: ‘If we continue to place our own individuality at the centre of our existence we will collapse on ourselves’ (2020)
- United States: Hurricane Katrina hit minorities in New Orleans hardest – and without effective intervention the next disaster will do so again (2019)
- United States: Against a backdrop of growing hostility, undocumented migrants in Oregon are taking a stand (2018)
- Canada and the United States: The continued struggle of indigenous communities to defend their lands (2018)
- Haitian Refugees in the U.S. (1982)
- Race and Law in Britain and the United States (1970)
- Puerto Ricans in the US (1970)
- The original Americans: U.S. Indians (1970)
News and updates
- MRG joins civil society call for the UN to investigate systemic racism in the police in the US, and to monitor this phenomenon globally (10 May 2021)
- A welcome judgment but not yet justice (21 April 2021)
- MRG hails UN report on Islamophobia (3 March 2021)
- HRC45 – MRG calls for attention on how technology replicates and amplify structural racism in law enforcement (1 October 2020)
- HRC45 – MRG joins ACLU’s demands to the OHCHR for the elaboration of the report on structural racism and law enforcement (1 October 2020)
- HRC44 – MRG’s participation in the UN panel on digital technologies and human rights (8 July 2020)
- HRC43 – Urgent debate – MRG calls for independent investigations into racist police brutality in the USA and for strong UN action to eradicate systemic racism in law enforcement at the global level (18 June 2020)
- HRC43 – Urgent debate – MRG joins ACLU’s call for UN investigation into systemic racism in law enforcement in the USA (18 June 2020)
- HRC43 – “Our inability to achieve racial justice kills” (16 June 2020)
- MRG joins ACLU, families of victims and 600 NGOs to call for UN scrutiny on racism and police brutality in the USA (8 June 2020)
- In the Name of George (4 June 2020)
- US blocking of Gay McDougall for UN anti-racism committee is a major setback for the fight against racism, says MRG (17 April 2019)
- The Deportation of Iraqi Citizens from the US: a Legal and Moral Question (27 September 2017)
- MRG calls on President Trump to stop enabling racism and hate attacks in the US (17 August 2017)
- Trump travel ban is ‘wrong in law and wrong in fact’, MRG says (30 January 2017)
- Trump executive order on controversial oil pipeline ‘deeply disappointing’ but ‘no surprise,’ says MRG (26 January 2017)
- MRG gravely concerned that hate speech during the Trump campaign represents a ‘clear and imminent’ threat towards minorities worldwide (21 November 2016)
- #BlackLivesMatter shines a spotlight on ‘what African Americans had known all along’ (28 September 2016)
- What the obituaries overlooked about Gerald Ford (4 January 2007)
- Grutter v. Bollinger (No. 02-241) (23 June 2003)
- Gratz v. Bollinger (No. 02-516) (23 June 2003)
- Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York (719 N.Y.S.2d 475) (9 January 2001)
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Sources and further reading
Minorities and indigenous peoples in
United States of America:
- African Americans
- Arab and other Middle Eastern Americans
- Asian Americans
- Alaska Natives
- Native Americans
- Native Hawai’ians