The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Charles Martel


The essay challenges the notion that the American conception of human rights is limited to civil and political rights and excludes internationally recognized principles that accord right status to economic, cultural and social justice. The author points to the U.S. civil rights movement and its societal transformative success as evidence that Americans support a comprehensive humanitarian agenda that conforms to international human rights law. The civil rights movement promoted economic and social rights and treated those issues as integrated with civil and political rights. Thus U.S. civil rights law - and the revolutionary transformation of the American socio-political landscape brought about by the movement - shows that American sensibilities about social, cultural and economic justice are similar in substance to international human rights law. The essay then turns to an examination of contemporary American public opinion. The author contends that large majorities support a humanitarian agenda across a broad range of issues that would include human rights, poverty relief and a demilitarized foreign policy agenda. The author posits that there is a disconnect between the majority's will and U.S. policy, and closes the essay by suggesting that the adoption of the robust advocacy used by the civil rights movement would bridge that gap. The writing of Martin Luther King figures prominently in the author's consideration of how leaders seeking to advance a humanitarian agenda might achieve this.

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St. Mary's University School of Law



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