December Is Human Rights Month, So Let’s Be More Humane

I think December 10 should be declared a red-letter day—where mail delivery stops and federal offices are closed—and here’s why: it’s National Human Rights Day and it could be a gentle reminder about the importance of treating everyone around us with respect, dignity, and kindness no matter their gender, age, race, political views, or social status.

Most of us are nice every day but during December, and especially on this day, I’m asking that we be more intentional, committed, interested–more everything–toward our brothers and sisters.

This day was first observed in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted it as a proclamation that everyone deserves the right to be treated fairly and equitably regardless of what they look like, how they smell, where they come from, or how they worship or speak. You’d think this would be commonplace but as we look around at the way prisoners, immigrants, the poor, the elderly, and others are treated, we see this isn’t always the case.

Every time I see refugees risk their lives to provide a better life for their families, I know we must do more to demand legislation for a more fair and humane immigration policy. The stories don’t change—harassment, oppression, poverty, drugs, trafficking, violence—the same old stories drive individuals and families into rickety boats and across dangerous paths seeking opportunity for themselves and their children.

Yes, these folks need to follow the rules and apply for legal entry but in a nation full of immigrants, something’s not adding up when we allow families to be separated and languish in unsanitary or safe “holding pens” while our government grapples with their humanity.

Humanity, there’s that word again that keeps me awake at night when I think about women whose right to decisions about their own bodies is under assault. When we think about learning that can’t go on at schools when children are worried about being shot by their classmates or others who might harm them in old, dilapidated buildings without adequate supplies—it’s enough to make you want to holler and throw up both hands.

The United States, a country of laws, this land of the free, the place where dreams come true—all of this is what makes us great, but we cannot maintain greatness on the backs of military families who are getting basics from the neighborhood food bank or living from hand to mouth.

A CBS Evening News report earlier this week showed the generosity of the American people who had donated more than $600,000 in food assistance to these hungry young families.. If we can take men and women from their families to keep us safe, surely we can pay them adequately so they can work without worrying about their families.

Almost every week there are reports about people who were wrongly imprisoned for years but who were exonerated. Trying to recapture their lost decades of freedom is impossible but their stories point to a real need for justice, courts, and prison reform.

We can do better, and we must, not just this month but every day, in every way. According to www.un.org/en/observances/human-rights-day, this month is “about acknowledging that people are people, plain and simple. If we take the time to learn about other cultures, we will begin to see things from their perspective and be able to better understand them as real people.”

When, not if, we hear the stories and walk a mile in the moccasins of real people, our hearts will show us the way forward.

Looking for inspiration, empowerment, uplift, straight talk, an encouraging word to brighten your day? You’ve arrived! Meet Dr. Cynthia Ann Bond Hopson, best-selling author, educator, inspirational speaker, sistergirl–she’s all that and more. Now listen to her new podcast, “Three Stores, Two Cotton Gins, One Remarkable Life: The Journey from There To Here,” and meet her favorite family and friends as they share laughter and heartwarming life lessons. Look for it on this page or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

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