So What’s Next?
Written by James M. Russell
“You can never get civil rights until you have human rights.”
…. Malcolm X
In this, the last of my essays concerning the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s, I want to recognise those folks who continue the fight to restore and preserve our civil rights. North American organisations such as:
• Alliance for Justice
• Black Lives Matter
• American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
• Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights
• The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
• National Urban League
• And many other local and national level organizations.
As well as internationally organisations like:
• Amnesty International
• Human Rights Watch
• Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
• Foundation for Sustainable Development
• Freedom House
• Civil Rights Defenders
Many of these organisations have either expanded their mandate to include human rights or had human rights as part of their original mission. Why? Because as Malcolm said, you can’t have civil rights without human rights.
And what exactly are Human Rights? …. Simply put, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Inalienable rights you have from conception. Civil rights, by contrast, are rights granted to you by the courts, politicians, and laws in your country, state, province, municipality eg. voting, drinking age, right turn on a red light, etc. Human Rights are universal, civil rights are location specific.
So the answer, or at least my answer, to my opening question is:
“Think globally, act locally.”
Which is pretty well what ‘civil rights’ workers and their organisations have been doing since the late 60s and 70s.
Of course, we must continue to hold our local and national politicians, and police, and educational bodies, and civil servants accountable to the public but, at the same time, we should never forget that many civil rights are also human rights. So, when appropriate, we should take human rights transgressions to the world – whether it be the United Nations, Amnesty International, The International Court of Justice, or Face Book and Twitter.
“Governments that block the aspirations of their people, that steal or are corrupt, that oppress and torture or that deny freedom of expression and human rights should bear in mind that they will find it increasingly hard to escape the judgement of their own people, or where warranted, the reach of international law.”
…William Hague, British MP
And by ‘human rights transgressors’ I mean that cop, that employer, that polluting company, or the pharmaceutical conglomerate that sells inadequately-tested drugs that result in illness or death.
“We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view”.
Let us climb to the top of the well. Let us stop ‘thinking small’ when our rights – civil or human – are trampled. Let us realise that our human rights struggle is not Canadian, or Black, or Muslim, or female – we are Earthlings and the human rights, environmental, and social challenges that affect one, affect us all.