Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
November 7, 2007
HASTINGS: DHS MYERS’ ACTIONS ON HALLOWEEN COSTUME OFFENSIVE AND LACKING JUDGEMENT
(Washington, DC) Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), issued the following statement after news reports uncovered an incident involving a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee who wore a racially insensitive Halloween costume of dreadlocks, dark make-up, and prison stripes to a staff party, which drew complaints from employees and won “most original” honors from Julie Myers, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and two of her managers:
“It is extremely troubling and quite unfortunate that Ms. Myers, who serves at an organization tasked with protecting our homeland and civil rights, cannot determine that an employee dressed in black face is both offensive and potentially harmful to workplace morale. The reoccurrence of persons dressed in black face in recent years, resurgence of nooses throughout the country as a symbol of hate, and continuing inequalities in our justice system and other aspects of society, suggest that Americans are forgetting or never learned their history and that there is a need to seriously revisit the state of race relations in this country.
“This is not only a problem here in the United States, but rather a regrettable occurrence that is taking place globally. Just yesterday, I hosted a briefing on hate crimes and discrimination, where the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism stated there is a problem with the resurgence of neo-Nazi groups, racist political parties gaining support, and brutal murders of minorities, in addition to inequalities in their justice systems. Education is essential in helping to raise awareness of these types of racially insensitive incidents, and I would encourage Ms. Myers to educate herself on issues of tolerance and discrimination, because clearly her judgement is lacking,” said Hastings.
Yesterday, the Helsinki Commission held a briefing entitled, “Combating Hate Crimes and Discrimination in the OSCE,” which focused on intolerance and discrimination within the 56 countries that make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The briefing addressed why these events are taking place, its negative impact on human rights and security, and what governments and the OSCE have done and should be doing to address these pressing issues.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
Media Contact: Lale Mamaux
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