By Leland Pan, PhD, Racial Justice Trainer, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
Human Rights Day is most commonly celebrated internationally on December 10, the anniversary of when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In the United States, people of color might read the thirty articles of the declaration and either laugh or cry at how the United States has missed the mark, even in the 21st century. Declarations like “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude” or “All are equal before the law” or “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest” or “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and social
On the month of Human Rights Day, it perhaps is more poignant to consider in what ways this country poses a global threat to human rights. Our biggest export to other countries is more and more sophisticated forms of oppression. We have employed the tactics of assassination, colonization, and genocide on the people of this country and are now taking these actions abroad. At home, we describe the separation policy for people seeking asylum as “this is not who we are.” Perhaps we should consider: this is who we are. No longer dressed up in a classist idea of politeness or intellectual-sounding words, our current
polity and unsustainable employment conditions are true representatives of the
United States of America.
The question is not what we can do as individuals. Such individualism is rooted in an American ideal. We will never quell racism (or sexism or homophobia or transphobia) on our own. We will only do it in an organized fashion with other people. The question facing us is whether this system can be salvaged. This question has to be answered and a new course of action taken before we are extinct as a species, wiped out by war and climate change, clutching our guns and money to the bitter end as we chant the mantra, “At least we’re better than them.”