As 50 creeps upon me and I celebrate 47 today, I am comforted that this day also marks the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt. Here is the Preamble to the now 30 articles in the Declaration:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
I love that the goal is for this to be the “common standard of achievement.” Sadly, we have certainly missed the mark here in 2013. I look at the structural and government mandated homophobia in Russia and Uganda. I look at the racism we still are fighting against in our own country, as I read about Shannon Gibney, a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and am in disbelief that three white students filed a complaint because they were uncomfortable; thus Professor Gibney was reprimanded for doing her job. I can only hope those three white students will evolve and have a better understanding of structural racism.
My Birthday Wish: My birthday wish is that all of humanity take some action, no matter how small a step, to STOP racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ageism, classism, eradicate poverty, and all other forms of marginalization. We must learn how to interrupt oppression and yet keep people engaged in conversations. What does it mean to be an ally? I would argue that being an ally is not a status, but it is action.