Given the current political climate and the isolationist orientation of the current president, it is easy to become rather self-absorbed in one’s own daily walk, as it is impossible to make sense of the irrational and distracting political arena. However, it is important to remember that we are not isolated from the rest of the world and that our lives and history must be understood in a global context that will allow us to extend our perspective beyond a narrow-minded plutocracy that has at its core a disparaging view of people of color.
We can rise above this by seeking knowledge that familiarizes our struggle with others of the diaspora and find strength in a global collective that works to address oppressive conditions of those across the world who are similarly situated. And in seeking changes on a local level — for example, with the issue of youth conflict, violence toward women, race-based educational disparities and unfair incarceration levels, just to name a few — it might behoove us to consider policies within a framework of global justice that is based on a recognition of our humanity, rather than us continuing to be seen as commodities. For an understanding of this point, view the Ava DuVernay film “13th.”
This past week, I watched a webinar sponsored by the African American Policy Forum (aapf.org) that featured four dynamic women — Sara Ferrer Valencia, Danny Maria Ramirez Torres, Clara Ines Valdes Rivera and Dora Ines Vivanco Julio — discussing the complex and difficult experiences of Afro-Colombian women. They emphasized, in the midst of their discussion about their remarkable resistance efforts and work as frontline change agents, that Afro-Colombians are roughly one-quarter of the Colombian population but account for more than three-quarters of the country’s poor. The illiteracy rate for Afro-Colombian women is 16.9 percent, compared to 11.7 percent for their white/mestiza counterparts. And sadly, more than 40 percent of all Afro-descendant women in Colombia face violence, though the rate for all women in that country is 37 percent. African-American women also face a high level of violence in this country in comparison to their white counterparts, something that tends to go ignored and unaddressed.
As I was listening to these women, along with many others who were tuned in, there was a mention of the U.N. declaration of 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. The U.N. General Assembly via resolution 68/237 stated the main objectives of the events and activities throughout this decade are as follows:
nPromote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people of African descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
nPromote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies
nAdopt and strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks according to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and ensure their full and effective implementation
I would like to suggest to those who are charged with making public policy decisions on a local level, that you extend your worldview, if you haven’t to date, and think about how we present to the rest of the world, especially before you make a move to build more jails. We need fewer jails and more affordable housing, better schools, well-supported art and community centers, fully flourishing libraries and enhanced public transportation.
There, that was easy. Now do it.
Dr. Terri Jett is associate professor of political science and special assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity at Butler University.