The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement recently called on the Obama administration to commit to the development of a national plan of action on racial justice, in light of the Trayvon Martin case. This is an important and necessary call, and an example of how to use human rights processes and discourse to demand accountability for human rights violations.
Demands for public services, the right to organize, the fight for a living wage, de-militarization of our communities, ending discriminatory hiring practices against transgender people, ending internal displacement because of mega-development projects, stopping paramilitary violence (George Zimmerman), halting FBI infiltration and disruption of lawful organizations—these are just a few of the demands that are being reconceptualized as human rights demands locally and are also being seen as fundamentally linked to global fights for working class power, self – determination and individual and collective dignity. This reformulation, emerging out of social practice and reflection from the bottom-up, is at the heart of what I have termed a “people-centered” approach to human rights struggle (see “From Civil Rights BACK to Human Rights: Reclaiming the African American Radical Human Rights Tradition,” www.ajamubaraka.com)
It is only through the process of building independent movements for power that the national and global structures of white supremacy will be defeated. This is true for the developing human rights movement in the U.S. and also for the broader social justice movement. Independent power bases not linked to either of the major parties and the liberal establishment is a historical imperative. But what is also imperative is to recognize that the essential task now is to build structures that are grounded in and represent the interests of the people. A people-centered human rights approach recognizes that “advocacy” is not enough. It is important and should not be discounted, but appeals to the State are not enough when the State itself is responsible for massive human rights violations. What a people-centered human rights approach argues for is a process that builds independent power, so that the people will have the means to restructure society to realize the full range of interconnected human rights. This is the position that most differentiates the people-centered approach from mainstream, liberal human rights practice. The liberal approach, with its privileging of legalism, elite change model, and anti-radical stance is unable to meet the critical needs of people suffering the catastrophic effects of the global capitalist crisis, growing repression and systematic racist assaults.
The call for a National Plan of Action on Human Rights is a necessary demand on an administration that would rather avoid issues involving race. But the call for a national plan is also a call for the people to develop a process that expands our demands and builds the means to realize those demands. That is the task and that is our responsibility.
Support the “No More Trayvons Campaign for a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice”
(see http://mxgm.org/no-more-trayvon-martins-campaign-appeal/ for more details).
To endorse the campaign, email email@example.com.
To sign the petition, visit http://www.ushrnetwork.org/content/webform/trayvon-martin-petition.
For more details visit www.mxgm.org or visit us on Facebook at
Ajamu Baraka was the founding Director of the US Human Rights Network until June 2011. A long-time human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and central American solidarity Movements in the United States, Baraka has been in the forefront of efforts to develop a radical “People-Centered” perspective on human rights and to apply that framework to social justice struggles in the United States and abroad. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he is editing a book on human rights entitled “The Fight Must be for Human Rights: Voices from the Frontline.” The book is due to be published in 2013.