The word for this week’s show is “othered.”
Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, used the term when discussing why she has devoted her life to the advancement of human rights. Margaret said that her experience with being othered as a young woman of color growing up in a small town, in East Tennessee, made her understand the pain and consequence of exclusion.
The idea that some are different and therefore should endure mistreatment is at the core of human rights violations she argues. What’s interesting is that the United States, since the codifying of human rights into international law after World War II, has seen the issue as one relevant to only those living outside the country. Margaret pointed out that the United States makes a distinction between “civil rights” at home and “human rights” abroad when they are actually one in the same.
That’s why— as human rights abuses have begun to mount in America—Amnesty International USA has increasingly focused it’s work here; sending international human rights observers to Ferguson in a first for the United States. But even as the range of human rights violations continue to grow domestically Margaret has a one word answer for what gives her hope in this moment: “activism.”
Activism and race are at the core of Rashad Robinson’s work as Executive Director of Color of Change. It’s astounding to think that in the 3rd Millennium a new organization had to be created to deal with anti-black racism.
Color of Change now has a over 1.5 million members who use its digital platform as a way to mobilize against systemic racism. “Racism is about a system of power” Rashad told me and “power is the ability to change the rules.” And Color of Change is committed to doing just that by addressing the intersection of power amongst corporations, the political class, media and non-profit organizations which extend racism.
Color of Change has been successful in forcing Bill O’Reilly off the air, getting corporations to stop supporting the pro-gun and racist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sparking smaller, similar efforts in communities across the United States. Color of Change’s ability to fight racism in new and effective ways is why we should all know more about their work. And it’s why talking to Rashad was so compelling.
A new approach to activism is an essential idea behind Condé Nast’s them, a digital community for the LGBTQIA community. As Them’s Executive Editor, Meredith Talusan, told me, “we don’t want to change ourselves to fit society but we want to change society.” Meredith does that one pixel at a time by putting forth radically queer images— and mainstreaming them through the power of the Condé Nast brand— during a period of LGBQTIA backlash across the country. However them, founded after the election of Donald Trump, is thriving. It has over 70,000 followers on Instagram alone.
All of this underscores that even at a time when the federal government is attacking LGBTQIA rights, particularly trans rights, that there is a countervailing force at work in the culture as well. The true power in this moment may be that it really is just that: a moment in time that can lead to a more positive new beginning. As Meredith said lots of groups are now coming together to pushback against growing intolerance. The images that she and the rest of the Them are putting forth may actually show us what that future looks like.
The hope of a better tomorrow and how to get there is what my three guests left me with this week.