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Moyn Addresses Human Rights and Material Inequality

On September 6th, the second annual Human Rights Lecture@Duke – a new partnership between the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and the Duke Law School – welcomed Samuel Moyn, professor of law and history at Yale University, to Duke. Moyn’s most recent book, Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (Harvard University Press, 2018), questions why the rise of human rights has occurred alongside enduring and increasing inequality, and why activists seek remedies for need without challenging growing wealth.

Speaking to a full room, Moyn stated that “human rights on paper and human rights movements — until very recently — have said nothing about material inequality. They’ve been a language and they’ve provided a kind of mobilization, belatedly, that takes on sufficient provision. But when it comes to material equality, human rights falls silent.”

“Professor Moyn’s lecture left me pondering a number of issues relating to the relationship between human rights and economic inequality, says Juliette Duara, a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law School and Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.  “In particular, I have been mulling whether it is justifiable for a small group to become fabulously wealthy so long as the lives of those at the bottom rung are marginally improved in the process. I think not – but the ‘why not’ is interesting to contemplate.”

Click here to see a video of the talk.

The talk was co-sponsored by The Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, The Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, The Center for International and Comparative Law at Duke Law School, the History Department, Sanford School of Public Policy, The Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library, and International Comparative Studies.

Students Reflect on Experiences at the U.S.-Mexico Border

From March 10-16, six undergraduates took part in the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Alternative Spring Break in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas, where they witnessed firsthand the changing physical and philosophical nature of the U.S.-Mexico border. The trip enabled students to examine the impact that a constructed wall and heavily regulated border crossings have on the residents, economies, and cultures of the twin border cities of Brownsville, Texas, U.S.A. and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. While there, the group members met with representatives of the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and other on-the-ground partners.

Speaking on a public panel at KIE on April 18th, five of the six participating students reflected on how the trip had reshaped their thinking of the immigrant experience by bringing them much closer in proximity to the border and allowing them to speak with individuals for whom the border is a part of life. They were joined on the panel via Skype by Richard Phillips (’17), a participant on a previous Alternative Spring Break trip to the border of Mexico and Arizona, who is currently working as an associate researcher for the Duke Initiative for Science & Society in south and central Texas.

Phillips said of his experience:

The world’s many, intractable human crises, like that of undocumented migration across the U.S.-Mexico border, naturally cause discomfort and pain within those who witness them. That’s how I felt when I went to the Arizona border during my Alternative Spring Break in 2016. It was tempting to find the easy way out: put together a fundraiser on campus, donate a little bit of my time or money to the cause, write a Facebook think-piece on our country’s flawed border security policies, etc. I wanted to feel like I’d done something to help, and then with that peace of mind move on with my life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that that was the wrong thing to do. That it would result in me leveraging my privilege to escape the reality that many people do not have the choice to leave. That it would be nothing more than a return to my blissful ignorance.
 
As students at one of the world’s top universities, it’s important to recognize that we aren’t necessarily meant to “do” anything just yet in our lives. We are meant to look, listen, feel, and be changed by the knowledge we are given and the world we see around us. Going to the border gave me a crucial opportunity to leave the Duke bubble and catch a glimpse of the suffering that is the reality of the real world. I learned to sit in the discomfort and pain of that reality, rather than numb myself and pull away. I learned to take advantage of my brief stints in the real world to listen to what it’s trying to tell me, and to learn how I can be of best use towards alleviating its suffering once my time in school is over. The experience changed my life.

Prior to their trip, the 2018 group members met to hear guest speakers and discuss assigned readings. During the experience, they participated in evening reflections and kept journals documenting their questions, concerns, and experiences. The students described how their firsthand experiences in the Rio Grande Valley region had debunked many of their preconceived notions about the border area and the nature of border crossings, while also leaving them with many more ethical questions to be considered and a better understanding of the complexity of immigration issues in the United States.

Watch a “video journal” of the students’ reflections upon their return:

Students Reflect on Experiences at the U.S.-Mexico Border

From March 10-16, six undergraduates took part in the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Alternative Spring Break in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas, where they witnessed firsthand the changing physical and philosophical nature of the U.S.-Mexico border. The trip enabled students to examine the impact that a constructed wall and heavily regulated border crossings have on the residents, economies, and cultures of the twin border cities of Brownsville, Texas, U.S.A. and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. While there, the group members met with representatives of the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and other on-the-ground partners.

Speaking on a public panel at KIE on April 18th, five of the six participating students reflected on how the trip had reshaped their thinking of the immigrant experience by bringing them much closer in proximity to the border and allowing them to speak with individuals for whom the border is a part of life. They were joined on the panel via Skype by Richard Phillips (’17), a participant on a previous Alternative Spring Break trip to the border of Mexico and Arizona, who is currently working as an associate researcher for the Duke Initiative for Science & Society in south and central Texas.

Phillips said of his experience:

The world’s many, intractable human crises, like that of undocumented migration across the U.S.-Mexico border, naturally cause discomfort and pain within those who witness them. That’s how I felt when I went to the Arizona border during my Alternative Spring Break in 2016. It was tempting to find the easy way out: put together a fundraiser on campus, donate a little bit of my time or money to the cause, write a Facebook think-piece on our country’s flawed border security policies, etc. I wanted to feel like I’d done something to help, and then with that peace of mind move on with my life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that that was the wrong thing to do. That it would result in me leveraging my privilege to escape the reality that many people do not have the choice to leave. That it would be nothing more than a return to my blissful ignorance.
 
As students at one of the world’s top universities, it’s important to recognize that we aren’t necessarily meant to “do” anything just yet in our lives. We are meant to look, listen, feel, and be changed by the knowledge we are given and the world we see around us. Going to the border gave me a crucial opportunity to leave the Duke bubble and catch a glimpse of the suffering that is the reality of the real world. I learned to sit in the discomfort and pain of that reality, rather than numb myself and pull away. I learned to take advantage of my brief stints in the real world to listen to what it’s trying to tell me, and to learn how I can be of best use towards alleviating its suffering once my time in school is over. The experience changed my life.

Prior to their trip, the 2018 group members met to hear guest speakers and discuss assigned readings. During the experience, they participated in evening reflections and kept journals documenting their questions, concerns, and experiences. The students described how their firsthand experiences in the Rio Grande Valley region had debunked many of their preconceived notions about the border area and the nature of border crossings, while also leaving them with many more ethical questions to be considered and a better understanding of the complexity of immigration issues in the United States.

Watch a “video journal” of the students’ reflections upon their return:

Do Lunch [canceled], March 29

 

This event has been canceled due to extenuating circumstance.

Do Lunch is a series of informal lunch discussions, exclusively for currently enrolled Duke undergraduate students, featuring ethical leaders outside of Duke and their decision-making processes.

Lunches are available to students who RSVP; space is limited.


WHEN: Thursday, March 29, from 12pm to 1:00pm
WHERE: West Duke 107F, East Campus

Do Lunch with Margaret Regan, February 22 (Canceled)

Unfortunately, this Do Lunch has been canceled due to illness.

Join journalist and immigration advocate Margaret Regan to talk about how giving voice to the voiceless can change policy and affect public opinion and the role and responsibility of journalists in the age of Trump. Have lunch with her to get a different and involved perspective!

Margaret Regan is the author of two prizewinning books on immigration.

The most recent, Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire (2015), which won a starred review in Publishers Weekly, looks at the fate of undocumented immigrants who are arrested long after they’ve established lives and families in the United States. The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands (2010) investigates the tragedy of migrant deaths in the desert. Both were named Top Picks in the Southwest Books of the Year competition.

A longtime journalist in Tucson, Margaret started writing about the border in 2000. She has a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania and she also studied French at the Sorbonne in Paris. She has twice gone to Guatemala, and studied Spanish in two tiny schools in the colonial city of Antigua.

Margaret Regan will deliver the 2018 Annual Human Rights Lecture on February 22, 2018 at 5pm in 115 Friedl, on Duke’s East Campus.

Do Lunch is a series of informal lunch discussions, exclusively for currently enrolled Duke undergraduate students, featuring ethical leaders outside of Duke and their decision-making processes.

Catered lunch available to students who RSVP; space is limited. Sign-up here.

WHAT: Do Lunch with Margaret Regan
WHEN: Thursday, February 22, from 12pm to 1pm
WHERE: West Duke 107F, East Campus
RSVP: Click here to RSVP.

Don’t Shoot, I’m Guilty

Hello.

It’s me.

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to think–that we are still pretty guilty of being racist.

Hi, my name is Gautam and I’ll be appearing on this blog throughout this year. I’ll usually try to keep it light and fun and hip and cool and relevant to however the kids these days like to do things around here, but today will be a little different.

Last week, a group that came to stock the East Campus Bridge’s walls with issues that were important to them in the context of the upcoming election came found slurs and malicious threats instead of the typical graffiti and events that you probably ignored. After documenting what was written and as (I’m assuming) fans of poetic justice, they quickly smothered the offending phrases with their own messages.

There is real hurt–individuals do feel unsafe inhabiting the same campus with those that think it is ok to use those words. It really is an injustice. But the question should not really be how we should react to achieve justice. Instead of looking for how we can get whoever painted those words to repent, we should look to making sure no one feels like it is ok to paint it in the first place. Instead of chasing the most obvious carrot hung in front of us by some sadist equestrian, we should buck the trend.

What I mean is that it is really easy to say that it was just one sociopath who just wanted to ruffle some feathers ( know, because that was my first reaction, too). So as a society,  we took some advice from Patrick Star to take all the guilt and externalize it.

But this solves nothing. Individuals are still affected by the presence of hate speech, regardless of who takes the blame. Externalizing the guilt invites me and others to be complacent in saying, “I’m cool. Don’t look at me. I’m not racist. I didn’t write that. I love my one black friend. He says I’m cool, too.” It’s the bystander effect. It happens all the time, but do we want to accept that?

I think real justice will come in a form that will not be obvious to us. Equality should be so ingrained into society that we do not notice it: I’m a PC/Linux guy, but I have to give a lot of respect to Apple for their design. A friend recently swapped out his hard drive for a much faster solid state drive on his MacBook. It’s cool and hip and can load Facebook like 0.3x faster, but now it’s physically way off balance. We don’t realize that Apple expends a great deal of its resources to perfectly plan out the placement of the components and weight it so that it is even. And being a PC guy, I can tell you that DEFINITELY has not been the case for my laptops. We do not realize it because we are not supposed to. In an even world, we are not supposed to know that there is a design in place to compensate for inherent inequities.

Bringing it back, I think we will only know that justice was achieved when we do not have these kinds of incidents. We will only “solve” the problem when there is not an incident to react to. By pushing the blame away, we lose any pull to act, and without that, there is no reason for anybody to change, especially since hate is much easier in anonymity. We will continue chasing one measly carrot while carrying a deadweight for miles unless we buck it and find our own sustenance. Or just curb stomping that horse rider.

So the question becomes: “Since these incidents keep happening, how do we influence others to stop thinking that hate speech is ok?” or “How do we influence people to recognize hate speech as hate speech?” or “How do we influence people to practice not only tolerance but understanding?”

On the flip-side, we know that there are individuals that truly lack empathy. Should we change our behavior depending on where it came from?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/25/how-to-spot-a-sociopath-hint-it-could-be-you.html