Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.

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February 18, 2016, Rights Reading

February 18, 2016

Frustration and fear

Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading: a few select articles from the front lines of human rights that we don’t want you to miss. This weekly series is taking next week off, but it’ll be back in March!

1. “Intimate Portraits of Flint Show Frustration, Fear, Perseverance,” by Wayne Lawrence, National Geographic

“For months we had city officials tell us that it was OK to drink the water. We all had different types of illnesses going on but we never thought it was from the water.”

These striking portraits, accompanied by the words of Flint residents decrying the human-right-to-water violations they’ve been experiencing, bring home the effects of this crisis while honoring the people enduring it. Advocates, including UUSC, are working together across Michigan to address the crisis through public education, longer-term legal reform at the state and national level, and more.

Related, “Without Black Lives Matter, Would Flint’s Water Crisis Have Made Headlines?” — by Susan J. Douglas at In These Times — raises an important question. UUSC’s Patricia Jones has found that 53% of African American Michiganders are living in cities that have violated the human rights to water and sanitation under Snyder Administration “emergency management” austerity measures, as opposed to 3% of white Michiganders. The Flint crisis certainly would have been on the radar of UUSC and its supporters, but the consciousness-raising effects of the Black Lives Matter movement have surely influenced awareness of the general public in a way that makes mainstream headlines about environmental racism possible. And thank goodness — more people need to be talking about this.

“It remains to be seen whether, legal maneuvers and technicalities aside, the federal government, the states, the counties, and the massive for-profit private prison corporations, GEO and CCA, will take the only morally appropriate step and end the detention of children and their mothers once and for all.”

As this article details — and as was feared by immigrant and refugee activists and advocates, including UUSC — the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has moved forward with allowing family detention centers in Texas to become licensed as child-care facilities. We’ve said it many times before, and we’ll keep saying it: detention centers are not child care. Stay tuned for more on this from UUSC.

3. “Hoaxmap: Debunking false rumors about refugee ‘crimes,’” by Teo Kermeliotis, Al Jazeera English

“It is this kind of coverage — articles that reinforce negative stereotypes and anti-refugee sentiment — that the team behind Hoaxmap said they want to expose.”

Karolin Schwarz, a resident of Germany, was sick of anti-refugee sentiment in the guise of false rumors about refugee-committed crimes. So, as this article explains, she and a developer created Hoaxmap, “an online platform that allows people to separate fact from fiction by debunking false rumours about supposed crimes committed by refugees.”

Anti-refugee sentiment is insidious — and it can lead to violence against refugees and discriminatory policies in the countries that refugees are seeking safety in. This is why we think it’s so important to do public education about the plight of refugees — and it’s why we’re partnering with grassroots organizations in Europe and the United States to facilitate such awareness raising along with providing immediate aid and longer-term advocacy. It’s cool to see innovative educational campaigns like Hoaxmap popping up to counter negative stereotypes of people who are fleeing violence and seeking safe refuge. Not sure how to counter misinformation you’re hearing about Syrian refugees? Check out this UUSC guide.

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