Human Rights Policy and Nonprofit Organizational Development

Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

Policy Blog: Human rights activist detained in Iran

In Policy Blog on December 30, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Last month I attended the Forum on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, hosted by the Women’s Freedom Forum.  Since then, I have an increased awareness of the human rights situation in Iran.  During the Forum, US-based Iranian activists showed several clandestine video recordings of activists being tortured and hung and Hon. David Kilgour, a former Canadian parliamentarian and current human rights advocate, spoke on an upcoming UN resolution Canada had co-sponsored.

This story in the New York Times talks about the arrest of activist Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.  Iranian  authorities also

“shut down her Center for Defenders of Human Rights, a coalition of human rights groups and other political activists whose members were planning to celebrate the 60th anniversary of United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.”

This comes amidst a growing number of crackdowns in Iran on activists and bloggers.  What is the next step for the international community?  I think this is an especially troubling question given the Bush Administration’s thinly-veiled designs on invading Iran next.  It reminds me of the invasion of Afghanistan in the early stages of the “War on Terror,” after years of unheeded activism by feminists decrying the Taliban regime.  I think the Afghanistan case proves that motivation definitely defines outcome.


Anti-Racist White Identity and the Grieving Process

In Policy Blog on December 17, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Some thoughts on developing an anti-racist white identity.  More to come soon on anti-racist theory more generally– a personal favorite.

1.  “Social Identity” discussed by social psychologists as group membership, identification with social group, and the personal meaning associated with membership in that group.  As Whiteness is a cultural default, white people’s social identity is constructed as the ‘normal’ based on the existence of an ‘other.’  White identity differs from other identities in that it is often experienced as the norm.


There is an automatic association between the self and the White in-group and thus with the privileges that such entails.  Part of the dominant discourse of Anglo Whiteness in the US is a notion that society basically functions as a meritocracy.  White Americans believe that they deserve what they have, and do not generally recognize the role their status as in-group members has played in their succeses.


2. There is a framework for understanding the grieving process that is generally accepted by mental health professionals.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is generally credited with first describing the grief cycle.  The process involves a series of steps:


·    Shock and denial

·    Volatile reactions (including anger, even at the person who has died)

·    Disorganization and dispair

·    Reorganization (re-conceptualizing and reorganizing a life which incorporates the lack, loss or change)


Geriatric social psychologists have applied traditional grief theory to life changes and the loss of abilities upon which an individual has based their sense of identity.  For example, retirement may cause a sense of loss and a modified grief process for someone who formed their identity around their occupation.  Similarly, the loss of a limb can cause a grieving process as a person re-conceptualizes their sense of self.  This could be particularly strong for someone who previously thought of herself as an athlete.


3.  As discussed in number 1, race is central to the understanding of self. For Whites, acceptance of their White identity means acceptance of the privileges that entails as well as their membership in the preferred, definitional in-group.  (By definitional I mean that in US society, White is the neutral by which other races are defined as different.)


To grow into a full understanding of the form and function of Whiteness in US society necessitates, for one, accepting that ones privileges are a function not of a meritocratic society but of a system of institutionalized racism.  It also means accepting that by simply being, White people are complicit in institutionalized racism and violence, and according to most definitions, are themselves racist.


For White people, coming to a full understanding of institutionalized racism in the United  States means a radical readjustment of their understanding of themselves and their social identity.  It makes sense that Whites developing and anti-racist White identity would go through similar reactions to people undergoing the loss of a loved one, because it is such a radical adjustment of social identity.

Resources: Whiteness

In Policy Blog on December 12, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Here are a few interesting articles whiteness:

Knowles, E.D. and Peng, K. White Selves: Conceptualizing and Measuring a Dominant-Group Identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 89(2), 223-241, 2005.


When first-person inquiry is not enough: Challenging whiteness through first- and second-person inquiry. The European-American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness, California Institute of Integral Studies.  Action Research, Vol. 3(3), 245-261, 2005.


Wong C. and Cho, G. Two-Headed Coins or Kandinskys: White Racial Identification. Political Psychology. Vol 26, No. 5. 2005

Resources: Abortion in Mexico

In Policy Blog on December 6, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Previously I worked for an abortion rights policy group based in Mexico City called the Information Group on Reproductive Choice (GIRE- Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida).  After leaving Mexico, I worked for GIRE as a projects-based consultant.  

GIRE’s work had a great deal to do with the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico City and the successful defense of the law’s constitutionality at the level of the Mexican Supreme Court.  

While with GIRE, I compiled a small group of articles and websites about abortion in Mexico, which is available here.  While not exhaustive, it does provide a bit of general context.

Policy Blog: An introduction

In Policy Blog on December 1, 2008 at 2:58 am

Welcome! On this blog I will post writing, thoughts and items of interest related to human rights policy, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and international development.  Please feel free to add to the discussion via the comments section.