Tag Archive: Human Rights


Today is Martin Luther King Day!In honor of this day when we celebrate this great man, it should be reminded that the struggle wasn’t easy for Dr. King. In fact, the FBI tried to blackmail Dr. King into killing himself.

4 ways Martin Luther King was even more radical than one first thought. For instance, he denounced the Vietnam War and supported reproductive rights.

Go read and listen to Dr. Kings’ Nobel Peace Prize speech here.

The Great Angela Davis on Martin Luther King.

Scot Nakagawa over at Colorlines: “My debt to Dr. King”.

Take Care/ Maaretta

Langston Hughes (b. 1902-1967) is one of those writers that don’t need an introduction. Mr. Hughes was the author of several plays, dozens of poems, two biographies as well as a slew of other writing projects. Rarely has there been a writer who could deliver such strong wisdom, wit and a sense for justice in his prose. His short stories and poems speak of the nuances and horrors of racial hatred and discrimination. Hughes’ description of a sole black student in the poem “Theme For English B” captures the alienation that’s been magnified by race, and his poem “Madam and her Madam” (where a hard working black maid calls out the white woman she works for after the latter claims there is no barriers between them) speaks of the utter obviousness and destructive naivety whites embodies in a white privileged society. Langston Hughes work spoke of hope and tried to often empower the oppressed in his poems, such as in his poem “Democracy”. In his most famous short story collection, “The Ways of White Folks”, Hughes tells stories of segregation from the point of view of both whites and blacks, the ongoing theme as the title suggest being the ways whites oppress in era of Jim Crow.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

One of his most powerful short prose pieces is “Poor Little Black Fellow”, which tells the story of Arnold who at a young age becomes an orphan and is adopted by a white rich couple. Arnolds is black and his lost parents were servants. Arnold, or Arnie as everyone calls him, grows up realizing he is not allowed to do nearly anything. Throughout his childhood and youth Arnie experiences being denied the same rights as the white children. He doesn’t get to join the scouts; he doesn’t get to play with the other children and is not invited to any parties. The Church, which his adoptive parents attend, use him as a symbol of “Christian charity”. Everyone in the story displays a superficial tone of exaggerated niceness to Arnie since they know he can’t be a part of anything. Their kindness is patronizing, not really helping with Arnie´s problems as a toxic bearer of blackness in a world of hidden white oppressions. Indeed, Mr. Hughes shows in this story that kindness can in times be worse than maliciousness. By being nice, the whites are able to deny Arnie any forms of equality or rights. Arnie knows in a way that the kindness is fake, a way to rationalize the racism he faces, but is powerless to say anything. Being extra nice to Arnie does nothing but put Arnie down, since he is not treated as a normal kid. Even worse he is used by his adoptive white parents and their friends and neighbors to make them feel better about themselves, while contributing and continuing the dehumanizing segregation and its hidden ideology.

"Painting Of Black Child" by Maria Saldarriaga, painted on porcelain

“Painting Of Black Child” by Maria Saldarriaga, painted on porcelain

But once Arnie starts to reach adulthood, Arnie and his adoptive parents take a trip to France. There Arnie starts to become immersed in political activism and social milieu (notably “party’s”). He begins a journey where meeting people for the first time gives him the feeling that the kindness he receives isn’t patronizing and degrading, but actually based on him as a person. He even falls in love with a white French girl and plans to marry her.

"Slow Dance", by Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe

“Slow Dance”, by Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe

He wants to stay in France, where he is treated equally and not shut down by faux-kindness. However, when he tells his parents about this plan, the white rich couple for the first time quit being “extra nice” and show their true colors to Arnie.

"Langston Hughes", a painting from the Brooklyn Art Project

“Langston Hughes”, a painting from the Brooklyn Art Project

Hughes uses France as a strong contrast to the US; while one country features segregation, the other provides hope and rights. Many black intellectuals in fact did move to France before and after the civil rights movement, such as James Baldwin and Richard Wright. While France did offer more rights to people of color at the time, the French did their share of also the separation and exotic-fication of blacks in their society.

Ways_of_white_folks_cover

The black French writer Frantz Fanon spoke of how, in his opinion, the French didn’t fully allow for blacks to be black in their own way nor did they fully understand what it was like to be “imprisoned in ones skin color”. Indeed, the French had a subtle, but emphatically problematic way of viewing Africa and Africans, believing them to be the “pure emotional ones”. Blacks were categorized at times as all African and there were cases where whites would tell blacks to behave “more African”. Mr. Fanon wrote an entire book on the account of racism in France, most notable the book “Black skin, White Mask”, where he deals with the psychological aspects in racism. Also, the time Hughes is describing in his story is the same time when Algeria was still colonized by France. So while the basic truth Hughes describes in his story ( that France offered some basic rights for the black Americans while the US still lived in the mind set of Jim Crow) this does erase certain more troublesome aspects of the French racial mindset from that time as well. None the less, Mr. Hughes uses this contrast between the two countries (France is more of metaphorical country in Hughes story than the real France detailed by Mr. Fanon) in a clever way to also show the difference between patronizing and humanizing.

Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon

“Poor Little Black Fellow” is a great literary document of the 1930’s. It is also a great example of how racism is more and more insidious than the explicit and obvious malicious and cruel actions engendered in the prejudiced social world. It’s also denial, which Arnie´s adoptive parents are guilty of. Prejudice and hatred take different shapes. Just because one is acting nice it most certainly doesn’t mean the actions are not harmful. This niceness, as described by Mr. Hughes, can be a way to exercise ones privilege and of looking down. Making someone less of a person is exposed in a grammar of oppression regardless of ones tone or being “polite” about it. This story is the perfect example of this, and should therefore be read by everybody who thinks everything will be okay if we are just nice to each other. If only it was so easy, but true kindness comes in the form of true equal rights, opportunity and freedom, as Langston Hughes illustrates.

First, some two to three weeks old, but still worth a read, essays and articles:

At Feministing, Chloe Angyal pondered if Facebook is enabling eating disorders.

At the same blog, you can read about Guatemala launching a femicide unit.

The blog Racialicious had a good article on racist fans of “The Hunger Games” series.

Also at Racialicious, Andrea Plaid made a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, who’s most famous for portraying Uhura in the original “Star Trek”- series.

Feminist Blogger Kelsey Wallace wrote a short, but spot-on and brilliant, critique of George Clooney’s film “The Ides Of March”. Like Ms. Wallace, I was also highly disturb by the films nearly anti-abortion message, as well as the way the female main lead was written as well.

Alya Dawn Johnson at The Angry Black Woman talked about the Bechdel Test and race.

At Bitch Media, Caroline Narby wrote an article on girls and Asperger’s.

At Colorlines, Hatty Lee posted some statistics which show that thousands of young black men die in gun crimes every year.

Since March is ending, which means the end of “Women’s History Month” is near, the team at Gender Across Borders recommends us to remember Marie Curie.

Second, the new:

Glenn Greenwald wrote about three congressional challengers worth supporting.

Blogger Arturo R. Garcia, who’s works focus often on race and popular culture, explored how Felicia Day and Chris Hardwick reinforced Geekdom’s whiteness.

Rest In Peace, Adrienne Rich.

Update: As Maya Dusenbery (feminist blogger and activist) noted perfectly, a win for abortion rights has been made in Argentina! (Article written by Edurne Cárdenas)

And lastly, something fun!

The Lonely Island’s songs haven’t often thrilled me much. However, “Like A Boss” is a hilarious song. Watch the video below!

The Welsh artists “Marina And The Diamonds” song “Oh No!” is witty and colorful social commentary, with a great melody. View the video below!

John Kitzhaber, the democratic governor of Oregon, stated on Tuesday that after allowing two men to be executed a decade ago he has come to regret his decision so much that he will now no longer permit anymore executions to take place while he’s in office. Gov. Kitzhaber announced that the execution of convicted killer Gary Haugen will not go on as scheduled, stating that he’d do the same for any other condemned inmates facing execution during his tenure in office.

Gov. Kitzhaber explained his decision in a honest, touching remark: “I simply cannot participate once again in something that I believe to be morally wrong. It is time for this state to consider a different approach”.

Gov. Kitzhaber has been criticized for being a “coward” for not going through with further executions, but personally I think it is rather brave of Gov. Kitzhaber to stand up for what he believes in and what he thinks is the right thing to do.

Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty information center, has said that most politicians are often hesitant to discuss abolishing the death penalty for fear it will anger voters. Kitzhaber’s decision might give confidence to leaders in other states to speak up more.

Let’s all hope.

For a more detailed article on this news, go here.

Gov. Kitzhaber's announcement at Salem