Photo by Wylly Suhendra via Unsplash

For as long as there has been history, there have been human rights violations. Each generation and oppressor gave themselves permission to act against another because they saw the other as not equal. Laws were created to declare groups and races as inferior. The European colonies enslaved people they deemed inferior. Tribes and clans wiped each other out that they deemed inferior to themselves. Hitler exterminated millions he deemed inferior and mass exterminations have been carried out from the earliest times through today. Even the United States tried to exterminate the Native Americans. But the conversation we’re not having is that each atrocity started with the silencing of a conscience and then silencing voices when opposed. 

The Egyptians in Biblical times did not immediately enslave the Israelites. It happened slowly over generations as the Egyptians and Israelites accepted slavery as fate. The African tribes sold their people and prisoners of war to Europeans, and the collective African tribes accepted it, and the Europeans grew more dependent on slavery. The Japanese-Americans were rounded up in their birth country and imprisoned in concentration camps for years. Americans accepted this as necessary for the safety of what they considered “true Americans.” Laws denied all but Whites the rights to citizenship but the conversation we’re not having is why changes are so slow. 

Each race or group has had to fight separately for their rights because society refuses to fight collectively for all HUMAN RIGHTS. Post-Civil War Black people were given the rights of citizenship but Asians were denied. Asians did not get citizenship rights until after World War II. We do not identify each other as “Human” because we’re constantly insisting the world acknowledge labels we give ourselves: Black Pride, White Pride, Native Pride, Asian Pride, Islander Pride, Gay Pride, etc. Our holidays highlight race and differences. 

This is a form of segregation. Why can’t Caesar Chavez Day be “Agricultural Worker Day,” to acknowledge all the Civil Rights Leaders past and present? Dr. King’s message was that ALL mankind is equal. The day should be to acknowledge the progress of the past, the challenges of today and hope for tomorrow. Why can’t June 19 be declared “Amnesty Day,” to acknowledge the fight against the institution of slavery. American slaves may have won their freedom but slavery continues around the world, even in the United States. The conversation we’re not having is how we perpetrated inequality by our methods of fighting for equality. 

Self-labels and self-segregation isolates and does not unify. The holidays are examples of non-equality. Where are the holidays for Native American, Asians, Middle-Easterners, Italian-Americans, etc. who fought for their rights? The same is true of entertainment, awards, music, etc. If equality is the goal, then stop segregating and excluding others to highlight one group. If groups keep highlighting their race, color, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. how is the rest of society supposed to see past them? We must change our actions, perception, and attitudes. We are Human Beings. The conversation we’re not having is how this separatist behavior leads to social decay. 

We identify with these labels and disassociate with others. “What’s happening to them doesn’t affect me,” is a common belief. The less “alike” we see others, the less we care. The United Nations, with Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote the list of Human Rights that the UN representatives from around the world voted in. But we do not act collectively as the Human Race, until we see everyone as human and worthy of all human rights. Human rights violations are largely ignored by society. We must hold ourselves and others accountable for attitudes and actions that allow one set of people to treat others as less than others for no reason other than that they are different. Until that day arrives, these days of racism, reverse racism, cross racism, sexism, ageism, etc. will continue and hate will grow.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Dorothy Maraglino

Dorothy Maraglino is a writer incarcerated in California. Writing is how she processes the world around her and devotes most of her time to short works that share the realities of prison.