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Amnesty International on the Record

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To the editors:

We would like to place on record our response to the article "Racial Discrimination at Amnesty International?" by Ben Joravsky (November 5), which referred to the lawsuit entered into by Toni Moore against Amnesty International USA.

We do not believe that the public media is the appropriate forum for a discussion of events which are under litigation, even though there were numerous factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the article. There are, however, some very specific points to which we wish to respond.

We take strong exception to the suggestion that AIUSA's senior management acted in an unprofessional manner--we stand fully and unequivocally behind them in their conduct throughout this very unfortunate matter. We believe that they consistently acted with the highest professional standards and in accordance with AIUSA's personnel policies.

Ms. Moore made charges that the Board and staff of AIUSA took very seriously, and which we made every effort to resolve. We regret that she felt she had to pursue her case in this way. The fact is that AIUSA is an organization that protects and fights for the rights of the individual. It respects its employees' civil rights and has for many years had both a comprehensive Equal Opportunity Hiring Policy and a Cultural Diversification Policy which apply to Board, staff and volunteers.

We will continue with our strenuous efforts to make AIUSA an organization which reflects the composition of our larger society, and which operates according to the highest humanitarian ideals and principles. We recognize that we live in a society deeply divided along racial lines. That is why we have made cultural diversification a top priority for the organization. We have already implemented a number of programs and policies in our ongoing efforts, and we pledge our commitment to continue to build a diverse organization in an environment which truly values, respects and maximizes the contributions of all who participate in it.

Our equal opportunity hiring policy lays out very clearly AIUSA's commitment to diversifying the composition of our staff. We believe that this policy has been instrumental in the fact that 39 percent of our staff, including a number at the mid and upper management level, are men and women of color.

Furthermore, AIUSA remains committed, to the extent allowed by Amnesty International's policy which prohibits national sections from working on cases in their own countries, to fighting human rights abuses in the United States. We have taken an aggressive position with our international headquarters about examining human rights abuses against African Americans and Native Americans in the U.S., as well as the rights of refugees, in an effort to make sure these issues are addressed.

We hope that your paper, and others, will work with us to strengthen our ties to all the communities with whom we work; that our commitment to fighting racism in our country continues to manifest itself in the diversity of our staff and our hiring, promotion and other personnel policies. We are confident that our record in the coming months and years will bear this out--we need the support of all the people of this country if Amnesty International is to continue its vital work of fighting human rights abuse, both here and around the world.

Mary Gray
Chair of the Board, AIUSA
New York, New York

Ben Joravsky replies:

For those who missed the original article: In April Toni Moore filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Amnesty, seeking lost wages and compensatory damages on the grounds that she was denied a promotion because she's an outspoken black woman who dared criticize company policy. (She isn't the first black employee to accuse Amnesty of racism. "There's no question in my mind that Toni was denied a job because of her race," another black employee told me. "A lot of racism exists at Amnesty.")

I gave Amnesty officials every opportunity to respond, but only their lawyer would talk to me. He called back after my deadline, but I rewrote my story to include his blanket denial of Moore's charges. Beyond that he said nothing relevant, except that "of Amnesty's staff nationally, 42 percent are people of color." (Now I see it's down to 39 percent.)

So what do I get? A long-winded, self-serving letter from some big shot in New York accusing me of "numerous factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations," charges she could but won't substantiate because "we do not believe that the public media is the appropriate forum for a discussion of events which are under litigation." What malarkey.

By the way, Amnesty and Moore settled their case last week. Neither side will divulge the terms or how much Moore got.

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