International Human Rights Day. How do I begin to engage in conversation that feels authentic, timely, and wise? How can I put out my wishes and hopes for a world where each human on the planet lives with dignity, respect, and justice?
I think of the thousands of people locked behind bars in the United States. We lock up more people than any other nation on the planet. Yet with most of the prisons and jails tucked away into rural communities– out of sight, out of mind– it is easy to forget them. On Human Rights Day, I remember them.
I think of thousands of immigrants- both those with and without documentation– who want to call this nation their home yet face anti-immigrant laws, policies, and sentiment at every turn. I think about my own ancestors who were immigrants themselves- changing their name to fit into their new home, losing some of their cultural and religious practices along the way. At what cost did their assimilation come? Would they recognize, as I do, that they aren’t very different than those seeking opportunity, community, and dignity in the United States today? On Human Rights Day, I hope for a new conversation and a new approach to our borders that recognizes the human dignity of each individual.
I think about the woman of color I saw today trying to maneuver a double stroller filled with white babies into the bus. I commuted hoping she has dignity and security in her work. She made me think about the righteous work of domestic workers across this country who too often have little job security or respect in their jobs. On Human Rights Day, I wish for domestic workers an upswell of support and activism that fuels their efforts for respect and rights.
I think about my fellow queers. How as LGBTQI people our rights to be, to love, and to live with dignity are seen as appropriate conversations for public debate. How queer families and queer people often live in the “in-between” spaces where we can re-invent and recreate ways of living and being that defy the norms that too often diminish human rights. And I wish for every queer person and family to feel reflected and respected in our country.
I think of every person who has protested for something they believe in this year— from January’s protests against SOPA and PIPA to the activism happening in Michigan against the “right to work” law today. My heart cringes at all the times someone in this country was pepper sprayed, beaten, arrested or dismissed for taking a stance. And I hope our country realizes that we too have a long way to go to protect our citizen’s human rights when they rise up against oppression and speak out for collective liberation.
Lastly, I wish that 2013 brings a new spirit to our country. One that allows folks to realize that each of our freedom and dignity is wrapped up in the freedoms and dignity of the person they think they share nothing with. Where collective liberation for all becomes more than a dream. And where all the lofty ideas of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights become more than a dream.