Tag Archives: Dignity

Eleanor Roosevelt and My Birthday

10 Dec
Me Age 6

Me Age 6

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.

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Hero of the Week Award, August 30: Cory Booker

30 Aug
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Newark Mayor and New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker has a longstanding reputation as a politician who understands his power and uses it to truly improve lives. He is very engaged with the people he serves and makes a practice of walking his talk — including a week spent on a food stamp budget and other practical demonstrations.

Booker is also an outspoken ally of the LGBT community. Although empowered as Mayor to perform marriages, he refuses to do so until all the citizens of his state have equal access to marriage. He has discussed his homophobia as a youth as an example of how people can grow.

As a lifelong bachelor with no visible social life, Booker is often the subject of speculation regarding his sexual orientation. Since he began his campaign for this October’s special Senate election. gay rumors have been swirling like mad in the media and online. Booker’s response?

And people who think I’m gay, some part of me thinks it’s wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I’m gay, and I say, ‘So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I’m straight.

Even more impressive is that the level of risk for Booker, as a multiracial man, supporting LGBT equality says volumes about his character and  his ability to lead. Sadly, Booker’s opponent, Steve Lonegan, chose to denigrate Booker for his wonderful attitude. Calling Booker “weird,” he said he “likes being a guy” and used Booker’s fondness for manicures as a sign of weak masculinity. Booker wasted no time in reinforcing his solidarity with the LGBT community.

It’s just disheartening to hear somebody, in this day and age, in the United States of America, say basically … that gay men are not men, they’re not guys. It’s shocking to one’s conscience in this country, where we believe that the content of one’s character, the courage in one’s heart, the strength of one’s sense of purpose, the love that one has for others and their service is what defines them.

During this week of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, how sad that people like Lonegan are on the wrong side of history.  Lonegan, like other folks who behave in homophobic or racist ways strip, not only others of their dignity, but strip away their own dignity. Thank you, Mayor Booker. We’re looking forward to your long and productive tenure in the Senate.

Black History Month 2013: Carolyn Robertson Payton

6 Feb

CRPaytonToday we honor and celebrate a pioneering psychologist, Carolyn Robertson Payton. She was also the first woman and the first person of color to serve as Director of the Peace Corps, appointed by President Carter. Born in Norfolk, VA in 1925, she came into a family that placed a high value on education. She attended Bennett College for Women, a Historically Black College, and credited the experience with helping foster her confidence in her abilities as a woman. She established a scholarship fund at the school late in her life.

She attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison for her MS in clinical psychology. (Ironically, the commonwealth of Virgina paid for her education under its “separate but equal” program since no university there would admit African Americans into such a program.) Her Masters’ thesis challenged a recently adopted intelligence test as inaccurate for minorities. This dedication to fairness was a hallmark of her entire career.

Payton spent the 1950s teaching psychology and pursuing further degrees. She became an assistant professor at Howard University in 1959 and earned her EdD in counseling and student administration in 1962. She joined the Peace Corps in 1964, using her clinical background to develop tools to help volunteers prepare for their assignments. She became Country Director for the Caribbean in 1967. In 1977, she became Director of the Peace Corps. Sadly and strategically, President Nixon had created ACTION as an umbrella for many social service organizations of the federal government (The Peace Corps’s history is not one of social justice). The director of ACTION routinely pulled volunteers out of other countries after they had developed useful skills to assign them to other jobs in the U.S. Payton resigned in protest.

As Director, I could not, because of the peculiar administrative structure under which the Peace Corps operates, do anything about this situation. As an ex-director, I am free to sound the alarm.

As a result of her actions, President Carter issued an executive order recreating the Peace Corps as an autonomous agency.

Payton returned to Howard University where she served as Dean of Counseling and Career Development and later Director of University Counseling Services until her retirement in 1995. She was an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA), focusing on the social implications of the work of her profession. She published the seminal paper “Who will do the hard work?” in 1984, arguing that psychology divorced from ethics and social responsibility would become a bankrupt discipline–much like the current field of social work today!

In her service to the APA, she served on many committees and task forces including the Committee on Scientific and Professional Ethics and Conduct, the Task Force on Sex Bias and Sex Role Stereotyping in Psychotherapeutic Practice, the Committee on Women in Psychology, the Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns, and the Policy and Planning Board. She was particularly concerned about the organization’s code of ethics, demanding that it maintain a focus on fundamental human rights.

The current code (APA, 1992) appears to have retreated from prioritizing this humanitarian stance. Ethnic minorities, women, gay men, and lesbians have reason to be apprehensive about the apparent downgrading in importance of psychologists’ declaration of respect for the dignity and worth of the individual.

She died of a heart attack in 2001, leaving behind an impressive legacy of support for human rights and dignity.

MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race

21 Jan

martinlutherI’m glad that we have a National holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  What troubles me is how far we have yet to go in the civil rights movement.  I hear people talking now about the March on the Mall in Washington, yet they don’t know the March was organized by the openly gay Bayard Rustin.  Hearing so many people purporting to have been present during King’s I Have a Dream speech, also leaves me a bit bothered. We like to pretend that we are not a nation continuing to struggle with racism; I have even heard people use the phrase “post-racist” society as though that was something real and already achieved.  Yet we have no further to look than the numbers.

Let us start with the Senate.  Of the 100 Senators currently serving, only one of them is African-American (and he was appointed to his current office).  Moving on to the House of Representatives (note the word Representatives), of the 435 civil servants (albeit 433 right now due to current vacancies), only 41 are African-American.  Of the 50 Governors only one is African-American. Of the nearly 8300 U.S. mayors, only about 650 are African American. This disproportionality in representation and leadership clearly speaks to how far we have yet to go.

As one can see the power structure is still fundamentally white, male, Christian, and heterosexual.  Whether we want to admit it or not, most people still benefit from institutionalized racism.  I am not saying most people are racist, in fact, I would assert that most people are not racist (save for the Tea Party), yet we have a mass of people who are the beneficiaries of racism.

I am grateful for the significant strides being made for civil rights and social justice, but let us acknowledge there is still much work to be done around people that are marginalized and how we treat people that are not part of the institutional power structure.  Dr. King’s voice of advocacy for civil rights has room for many others to join the choir and push back against how we “other” people and strip populations of their dignity–now is not the time to be satisfied:

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity…–I Have a Dream, Dr. King

TSM also wants to wish a heart felt congratulations to President Obama on his second inauguration! I hope everyone gets to see the amazing Myrlie Evers deliver the Invocation.  I also want to note that the openly gay  Latino Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet–nice choice.

Mental Health and Stigma

8 May

Progressive Health Care

Part of social justice is working to enfranchise marginalized populations.  Sadly, people living with mental health issues are too often marginalized and worry about stigma.  I was even anxious when I talked about my own struggles with depression.  I say with great certainty that most humans either struggle with some form of mental illness, or have family and friends who struggle.

Here in the United States, we can’t even talk about health care for all much less actually talk about treating mental health issues.  Here is where I would like to call attention to the amazing and progressive country of New Zealand.  New Zealand is tackling the issue of mental health with an advertising campaign that is compassionate, humane, and affirming in the attempt to remove stigma.  Click here to see part of this video campaign.

Action steps: not only do we need to make sure the Affordable Health Care Act passes, but we need to expand the act to take care of all of our brothers and sisters.

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