Human Rights — dreams, contradictions, violence, and hope

 

Human Rights - AAASDNAposter

Human Rights is a mechanism that we need in our world, even though it is impossible. It is impossible because the nations that enforce and “protect” it, demand it, are the nations that committed genocide and exempt themselves from war crimes, fomenting distrust from other nations.

Internally, national and local police systems, judicial structures, school systems, and the dynamics of domestic life, maintain and create as well as change and make invisible, the contours of oppression and the hierarchies of the local culture, whether it be racial, gendered, class and caste-ist, homophobic and heterosexist, or along the lines of patriotic and nationalist. In this landscape, human rights becomes a distant ghost for some people and communities deemed outside those deserving rights, including those criminalized or made to become “insane.”  Who creates insanities and criminals but the dominant systems?

In this scenario, to argue for human rights is a spectacle, yet is necessary, fraught with contradiction, hope, despair, memory, and imagined futures.

CHINA Police - In Uygur minority Region - December 2014

CHINA Police – In Uygur minority Region – December 2014

 

 

Revolution – by Junko Nishi, Japanese woman poet

Revolution

by Junko Nishi

Since the images you demand

cling to me

I cannot form my own image.

I am forced to live

by your images,

I am always living like that,

[and] so

I understand

revolution is really body aching.

From Women Poets of Japan, edited by Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi. New Directions 1977, page 132.

Race-Nation-Gender-Class-Nation: Forget it. Never Forget it

Pat Parker (1944-1989), poet, teacher and activist, wrote this poem: For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend  and had this wonderful line:

The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.

For any social difference that exists in any society, we can place it there, in the space of “Black.”   In any case, color-blindness, gender-blindness, mixed-space blindness, sexual orientation blindness, socio-economic class blindness, neighborhood blindness, body-size blindness, nationality blindness etc. etc. —  we have to pay attention to how quickly we may subsume, make invisible, refuse (ignore), make trivial, something that makes a difference.  Sameness is too valorized in the globalizing society.  It’s not about any particular choices we have in holding on and letting go—-because even this is an action and a series of action (holding or letting go, that is), that come from political positionings that rely on privilege, luck, ability, amount of trauma, fear, violence, and a host of other things that come from oppression and social constructions of society.

Let us not forget how completely and utterly different we are from each other.  This way, we truly understand diversity.  If we “understand,” then perhaps we do not understand difference at all.  We just consume, co-opt, and bring into our own history and culture and language and values, that OTHER.  This is a violence to that Other.

But in saying they are different, do we automatically become AFRAID?   Or do we automatically become ANGRY?  Do we automatically IGNORE?  Do we assume we can translate, communicate?   Yes we can communicate, but understanding its partiality is important.

Honor you.  Honor me.

In our difference.  Utterly different.  Utterly ourselves.  Yet somehow, we are related as humans, as that who has experienced pain.

Perhaps other things.  But do not assume equality.

Be human.

There . . . . . .  Can we allow difficulty, struggle, powerful connection and dissonance?

Happy New Year – for blasians???

A New Year!! Another useful and constructed moment in our passing of life and time. Can we use it? And in using—what do we repeat? What do we do that we think is great but repeats some kind of problem? What do we do that would be fantastic if it weren’t for someone or something, some force–crushing it at its birth? What have we not thought of? What can we do if we’re too busy caught in traps of what we’ve inherited? What can we do if we’re too busy not acknowledging and perhaps honoring our ancestors and how they live in us? The photo on this blog is an example. The Black-Asian ‘beautiful’ is made into something. By what for what?

Celebrate and lament? I am happy for the new categories that now proliferate across America, then to the world, on identity formations, labels and then political jostling. Re-shuffle, renew, engage, dismantle….yes the new identity categories for mixed-race peoples are growing in our globalizing, corporatizing, shifting world. But people forget so easily, that each of our nations, countries, cultures, come from what has passed–what is good and bad. I, for one, wish that we would become more educated and more ethical. Knee-jerk, spontaneity is great but can also hurt, debilitate, crush, annihilate, make invisible, as well as create the ‘new.’ Too much speculative forms of intellectual play can disconnect, hurt, debilitate, crush, annihilate, make invisible, as well as constructing the ‘new.’

Just to mention the different labels and ways of being in the world with race and racial terrain, in culture and nation, subaltern and dominant, we have created many things. For those of us whose heritages are of African/Black and Asian, living in the US, there are now a host of different cultural and heritage labels: Blasian, Blackanese, Blambodian, Amerasian, Hapa, Blorean, Blietnamese, AfroAsian, Black-Asian, Japa-nigga, Blilippino, on and on and further. We can see, also in the US, that identity is often about ‘feeling happy with our self’ and wanting the world to ‘accept us.’ It’s almost always about the ‘self.’ Often, we may connect this to a color or race, memories. But where is social justice? I’m not talking about getting what we want in the USA. Is race and color enough for unity? And if it isn’t, then arent’ we participating in the very disconnecting, isolating structure of individualism – that is devoid of history? I’m all for individuality. But extreme individualism is often the result of the isolating ‘self’ and glorification of a hero-self; successful ‘self’, the happy ‘self’ and the perfect ‘self.’ In the US, often, this is how identity and life is supposed to be lived. Or it’s the nuclear family version of making our specific families happy, glorious, accepted.

In Japan, the self is assimilated into blending in, to doing what ‘Nihonjin-ron’ wants. Most Black-Japanese in Japan, for instance, are working in bars, as singers or are agents of entertainers and models. The most beautiful and ‘exotic’ looking ones are in singing and modeling. They are ‘forced’ into a version of ‘Blackness’ borrowed from Japanese images which are from the American commodified versions of Blackness. Indeed, in the US, most Blackanese struggle to be other than ‘only-Black.’ Often, I see Black relatives and friends of mine, accuse me and others I know that are Black and Asian mixed, of being afraid of or not proud or dismissing Blackness if we claim another heritage. “We’re BLACK.”

I’m afraid that those of us in my own generation, struggle to be part of the dialogue and mix on cultural heritage. This also means the PROXIMITY TO WAR CULTURE needs to be examined. Amerasians from Vietnam may be somewhat ‘better off’ in the USA but are still going through nightmarish existences under prejudice in Vietnam. Especially if one of their parents is Black. In Korea and Okinawa and the Philippines, there is the ongoing existence of American military bases. Around the bases, there are what is called ‘Base towns’- which have a culture all its own. Children of American military men and local ‘Asian’ mothers are plenty. Most of them without their fathers who have left their girlfriends with child. And there is the further reality of sex-work and survival for many of these women, who are stigmatized. The offspring of these women are ostracized and abused.

Laws, of course, don’t help in most cases. For instance, many of the children of Japanese mothers are considered STATELESS. They are nether citizens of Japan or the US, since they are born to single mothers. However, if they are children of JAPANESE MEN and American women, they are Japanese citizens. This creates horrific circumstances for both the mothers and the biracial children. Often, the US military refuses to take any responsibility for the tens of thousands of babies born to US military men and the local Asia-Pacific women. For Black-Japanese, Black-Okinawan, Black-Korean, Black-Filippino, Black-Vietnamese, Black-Cambodian biracial children, there are many hurdles and perhaps made impossible through the combination of local racism and anti-Americanism and both the local laws as well as US law.

I am a child born in the 50s in Japan, then able to come with my father and mother to the US in the 60s. I experienced tremendous violence in both Japan and in the US growing up. I also experienced tremendous support and love from certain individuals in both countries. I am a child whose proximities to World War II is very close. Those born in the 1940s and living, are even closer. Those born after these periods, still experience the residuals emotions and parenting from the parents and/or orphanages or foster homes or the streets in which their childhoods were formed. Many honor their fathers, but not their mothers. Or mothers are relegated to the label ‘war bride’ and are made tragic heroes who served lumpia or kimchi or takuan with some kind of ‘Black’ food and cuddled us at night. It’s an ‘exoticizing’ that works well into blending into American society, becoming entertainment for others to oggle us. It’s very gendered and unaccommodating to historical realities. When African-American men were fighting for their survival and dignity in the 1950s through 70s for civil rights in the US, it was a tremendous struggle. But for the mothers who often lived through devastation through bombings and then perhaps various ostracizing behaviors and abuses from their families and/or the general cultures, then perhaps experiencing displacement in coming to the foreign country, in fear and trepidation and confusion, then what is our family and how shall we honor?

Across generations, across proximities to wars and military bases, across gender, across nation and poverty and or wealth, across rank, across civilian/military divide, across language, how can we work together????? What is pride when it is not about raising our brothers and sisters in other places and other memories and existences? What about ourselves? Is becoming a middle-class success enough? In globalization, one of the key factors in globalizing, is FORGETTING. The reality of forgetting makes us weak, depressed, isolated, dishonoring, disconnected. Of course, there are some things that should be forgotten. However, there are things that some people cannot forget. Memory is in the body, forever there. For others in privilege, forgetting is normal and perhaps made superior. Often, we relegate social traumas (such as experiences of extreme violence, prejudice and war/genocide) to something that is abnormal and taken care of in therapy. It’s so convenient.

In the US, the victorious of World War II, the nation was created. People helped make bombs and planes. I am also grateful, lest Japan would have continued with their terrible weapons of imperial suicide. Now America plays out self-destruction. In being ‘Blasian’, or multiracial black-asian identity, what does this mean? So you are happy. Now what? What shall we do in this new year?

Crude – the movie

“From the mid-1960s until the early 1990s, Texaco (now Chevron) dumped 18 billion gallons of oil and toxic waste into the Amazon rain-forest of Ecuador, creating a 1,700-square-mile “cancer death zone” the size of Rhode Island.”   –  from wikipedia

This movie is of the quest of activists to bring accountability and conscience to our world.  The plight of ecology and the people of the world who have not severed human relationship to earth and creatures, should not be something sensational but should be seen as something we have chosen or willed to forget, or do not understand as having been ‘forgotten out of us’ –meaning that sometimes our forgetting is not personal, so much as having been a strategy by larger forces, so that we may drive our cars and keep our lights on and party in all-hours of the night without a thought to the violence this attests to.

Our world, a neo-colonialist world, has made natural the exploitation. Of each other, of others, of ourselves.  We make the abusive corporatocracy unapproachable in our self-hatred.  Our ignorance is a child of self-hatred and ineptness.  We shrink and sometimes feel paralyzed and small.  That’s what many of the elites who are exploiting our earth and communities want us to do.  Are we that obedient?  Are the indigenous people just people with colorful clothes that we think are behind us in history?  I am certainly not.  I have Cherokee heritage.  All of us are indigenous.  The indigenous communities who still lived as linked with the earth thrived in all of Europe and Asia and the Americas and the Middle East.  Those ties have all been systematically severed in one way or another and at different speeds and intensities that usually mirror the amount of modernization that has accumulated.  The Irish and Welsh Celts and the Ainu and the indigenous of Okinawa and others continue to battle.  Are the indigenous people of the Americas indigenous?  All of us come from earth.  Why is it that the ‘brown people’ with colorful clothes are left to fend for a life on this planet that doesn’t equal plunder and genocide while the rest of us have ambivalence about all of it?  We are humanity, we are earth.  Do we ignore our mothers and foremothers and forefathers as a ‘progress,’ as some kind of maturity?  Who taught us these things?

Instead of guilt, there needs to be a reckoning.  A courageous facing, shifts in behavior, but not a reconstitution of a heavy punishment-as-morality, but a compassionate turn, a vigorous turn to actually care for our ancestors, for our planet.  Not just in our own recycling projects and moral superiority in not driving SUVs.  I’m talking more about working with those, like the gentlemen, women, children, ladies, lawyers, and all others who are struggling and need our creativity, alliance, knowledge, privileges.  Act.  And hopefully movies such as this, can inspire, inform, shift you and those you know, with a ruthless love of life and diversity.

For Immediate Release: Revoke the Barring of Professor Richard Shapiro

For Immediate Release
November 5th, 2010

WHAT: Protest at the Indian Consulate: Revoke the Barring of Professor Richard
Shapiro, End the Isolation of Kashmiris
WHERE: 540 Arguello Boulevard, San Francisco, CA,
WHEN: November 8th, 11am-12pm
Organized by Students and Friends of the International People's Tribunal on Human
Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK)
Press contact: Amanda McBride, ciisstudentsolidarity@gmail.com, 415.627.7675

On Monday, November 8th, at 11 am, a group of students and community members will be
protesting IndiaÕs banning of Richard Shapiro, a US scholar, without any reported
legal basis. The protest will take place at the San Francisco Consulate General of
India, at 540 Arguello Boulevard.

On November 1st, 2010, Professor Shapiro was denied entry by the Immigration
Authorities in New Delhi.  Professor Shapiro is a US Citizen and Chair, Anthropology
Department, at California Institute of Integral Studies. Professor Shapiro traveled
to India with his life partner, Professor Angana Chatterji, a citizen of India and a
permanent resident of the US. Professor Chatterji, a prominent and frequent visitor
to the region, was granted entry to India while Professor Shapiro was prevented from
entering the country. Reports indicate that no legal basis was given for the
decision to deny his entry. Professor Shapiro was in possession of a valid passport
and visa. Given that Professor ShapiroÕs work focuses neither on South Asia nor
India, it appears that his right to travel has been restricted in an attempt to
further intimidate Professor Chatterji, and to discourage her from continuing her
work as Co-Convener of the International People's Tribunal for Human Rights and
Justice in Kashmir (IPTK).

Since 2006, Shapiro has regularly traveled to Kashmir, and interacted with various
human rights defenders, scholars, and youth to bear witness and to learn from their
experiences. He helped form a Jewish-Muslim Friendship Circle. The focus of his
scholarship and academic work is not India or Kashmir, but issues of race, class,
gender, and alliance building in the United States, and discourses on power and
subjectivity. Richard Shapiro had written an op-ed on Kashmir in 2009 and another in
September 2010. These were analytical pieces based on articles and newspaper
reports, and not on primary research that had been conducted by him. Any scholar can
do that. This is a matter of academic freedom, and beyond the control of states and
their desire to regulate thinking on the injustices they perpetrate.

On November 1, when Professor Shapiro first presented his passport to the
Immigration Authorities, he was stamped an entry permit. Then, they started
processing Professor Chatterji's passport. She has been stopped regularly since the
inception of IPTK in April 2008. As they paused over her passport, the Immigration
Officer again asked Richard Shapiro for his passport. Then, he was informed that he
may not enter India, and that the ban was indefinite. The Immigration Authorities
refused to pay for his return airfare. He was made to leave at 11.50 am that same
morning. The Immigration Authorities refused to give any reason, while stating that
Professor Shapiro had not been charged with anything.

This arbitrary and undemocratic act by the Indian government is an affront to
academic freedom, the right of families to be together, and further isolates
Kashmiris from international solidarity in their struggle for peace and justice. The
barring of an international scholar to Kashmir raises serious questions into the
functioning of democratic rights and human rights conditions of Kashmiris. Denying
Shapiro entry without due cause impinges upon academic freedom, freedom of movement,
and the right to travel with his legal partner and to visit his family in Kolkata.

The Indian state has regularly targeted those that have been outspoken on injustices
and military governance in Kashmir. The Indian state has targetted Professor Angana
Chatterji and her colleagues in Kashmir, Parvez Imroz and Khurram Parvez, for their
work defending human rights. Recently, writer Arundhati Roy was a target. When
academics, writers, and journalists are banned, such actions speak to the intent of
the Indian State in maintaining impunity, and in deliberately isolating Kashmiris
from the world and the world from Kashmiris.

We call upon the Government of India to:

*   Revoke the entry ban of Richard Shapiro from India.
*   Stop obstruction of the IPTK's work.
*   End barring without due cause.
*   Support democratic processes, the exchange of ideas.

For more information on the IPTK, see www.kashmirprocess.org.

For a press note by Scholars at Risk regarding Professor Shapiro, please visit:
http://scholarsatrisk.nyu.edu/Events-News/Article-Detail.php?art_uid=2454

The op-eds by Richard Shapiro:
Governing Kashmir (August 2010):
http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2010/Aug/29/governing-kashmir-17.asp

A Just Peace in Kashmir? (August 2009):
http://www.zcommunications.org/a-just-peace-in-kashmir-by-richard-shapiro

 

Faculty Head of our department denied entry into India

Our students in the Social Cultural Anthropology (SCA) at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where I received my Masters degree in 2001 and where I continue my PHD studies, has been busy the last few days as we intensify efforts to intervene in solidarity to the people of Kashmir and all those who are democratic in spirit, in a world increasingly divided along lines inherited from our nation-states and communities.  Richard Shapiro, who is the department head of the SCA department, was denied entry into India at the airport, where he was to meet his partner Angana Chatterji, who is also one of our faculty at the institute and is co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir.

This situation merits attention for those who want and need more democratic processes in the world, and to acknowledge the way states work in convening monopolies on power, even where there has been no crime committed.  How can he be turned away for doing nothing?  Why do states have more power than the people they are supposedly serving and protecting?  This is the crucial question of our historical present.

The below article from Yahoo News explains:

This coming Monday, November 8, at 11:00  in San Francisco, there will be a protest at the Indian Consulate, protesting this turn-away and the divisions and policies, actions and heritages that prop up these kinds of actions.  We must demand accountability to rights granted by our constitutions in democratic states and all states.

 

US professor sent back from Delhi airport

Wed, Nov 3 12:18 PM

Yahoo News. India.

A prominent US academic was sent back to America from Delhi airport on Monday, allegedly because his partner is associated with a human rights group in the Kashmir Valley.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society (JKCCS), immigration officials at the airport initially put an entry stamp on the passport of Prof Richard Shapiro, but cancelled it after they examined the passport of his partner, Angana Chatterji.

Chatterji is co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice, a voluntary organisation investigating alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir. She is professor of social and cultural anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), where Shapiro is Chair and associate professor of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthopology.

Chatterji was allowed to enter India, and is now in Srinagar. She said the immigration officials did not give any reason for denying Shapiro entry. No government official could be reached for a comment.

“This Monday, Richard Shapiro had travelled a long way from San Francisco to be with Angana Chatterji, who was travelling to Kashmir for work. When he first presented his passport to the immigration authorities, he was stamped an entry permit. Then they started processing Angana Chatterji’s passport.

She has been stopped regularly since the inception of IPTK in April 2008. As they paused over her passport, the immigration officer again asked Richard Shapiro for his passport,” JKCCS president Parvez Imroz said in a statement.

According to Imroz, Shapiro, a US citizen, has accompanied Chatterji, an Indian citizen and a permanent resident of the US, to India about 30 times since 1997. He does not work on Kashmir, but he has, since 2006, interacted with human rights activists in the Valley. He wrote two analytical pieces in local dailies in 2009 and September 2010, the JKCCS said.

According to Imroz, the immigration officials told Shapiro that the ban on his entry into India was indefinite. “They did not deport him or cancel his visa, but insisted that he return immediately. He was made to leave at 11.50 that same morning,” he said.