Wright discusses social justice

Ann Wright talks about the abundance of information in today’s world during the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Lecture on Wednesday in Morgan Auditorium. A retired Foreign Service officer who served at the United States embassies in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, and Grenada, Wright is outspoken about her opposition to the war in Iraq. With the abundance of social media and news outlets, it is hard to know what to believe. In her talk Wright emphasized the importance of listening to all outlets and making one’s own judgment./ photo by Celine Dehban
Ann Wright talks about the abundance of information in today’s world during the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Lecture on Wednesday in Morgan Auditorium. A retired Foreign Service officer who served at the United States embassies in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, and Grenada, Wright is outspoken about her opposition to the war in Iraq. With the abundance of social media and news outlets, it is hard to know what to believe. In her talk Wright emphasized the importance of listening to all outlets and making one’s own judgment. / photo by Celine Dehban

Celene Vargas
Staff Writer

Retired U.S. Army reserve colonel and former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright spoke at the second annual Frederick Douglass Human Rights Lecture Wednesday in Morgan Auditorium about whether human rights are for everyone.

Wright sectioned her lecture into seven parts, ranging from the lack of accountability for police brutality to international wars and large civilian casualties. Each section emphasized threats to human rights.

“Sometimes it’s only when those rights get taken away from you that you really become concerned about them,” Wright said. “So, to be preemptive about people taking them away, you need to think about them right now. Don’t be complacent.”

Wright also talked about how the police have killed many unarmed civilians.

She highlighted the events of Ferguson that began last August and led to the militarization of the police in Ferguson.

Tear gas and military style weapons were used on protesters, causing them serious injuries.

She also talked about New York resident Eric Garner who died of asphyxiation July 17 after he was placed into a choke hold by a policeman.

Garner had tried to break up a fight but was then accused of selling untaxed cigarettes by police officers on the scene that lead to an argument.

None of the police officers involved were indicted, causing the public to question what is happening with the justice system, she said.

Wright said communities are not letting these deaths go unacknowledged. We can see this, she said, through the protests and organizations created to bring justice, like Mothers Against Police Brutality.

Wright then spoke about the problems of mass incarceration.

She showed that between 1970 and 2005, the U.S. prison population rose by 700 percent. In 2014, 35 people were executed.

Wright questioned whether prison is the right way to rehabilitate people who have had run-ins with the law. She showed that in 2012, more than 150,000 people were imprisoned with life sentences.
She also talked about government surveillance. She said if the members of the audience have their cellphones turned on, the government can know they attended Wright’s lecture, citing the Utah Data Center.

She compared the U.S. government to George Orwell’s “1984.”

Wright mentioned Edward Snowden, a former analyst for the National Security Agency who leaked classified information about the extent of the invasion of privacy by the U.S. government.

She asked the audience if they thought Snowden was a whistleblower or a traitor. She had everyone close their eyes and raise their hands. Afterward she said the majority of the people who voted felt Snowden is a whistleblower.

“There are wonderful examples through history of how small (groups) of people do make changes that all of a sudden… become relevant to a lot more people, particularly in times of crises,” said Wright.

Wright then talked about international wars and civilian casualties and how the government uses war drones to kill people in Pakistan.

They rationalize it by saying it is better than sending American soldiers but they do not see how innocent families are being torn apart in Pakistan.

Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for release but are still being held there. About 50 people are now “forever prisoners” meaning the government feels they are too dangerous to leave.

She thinks it is because the government is afraid the prisoners will reveal how they were treated.

She said America is a country that prides itself on its legal system and human rights yet those prisoners are being held without trial.

Wright concluded by saying human rights are for, all and they need to be protected.

“I liked that she was really straight forward on her opinions of human rights. The media often likes to romanticize human rights, saying the U.S. isn’t really as bad as we really are,” junior educational studies major Breanna David said.

“It was interesting hearing what she had to say. I remember when she left the Bush administration,” junior computer science major Joshua Serrano said.

Celene Vargas can be reached at celene.vargas@laverne.edu.

Other Stories
Celine Dehban
Other Stories

Latest Stories

Related articles

Commentary: Police violence hits home

As the nation came to a standstill when unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was murdered in cold blood by a police officer in 2014, much of the country had no idea what was to come in regards to the issue of police brutality following that fateful day. 

Movie Review: Stone’s ‘Snowden’ portrayed as hero

When it comes to Edward Snowden, there is hardly a middle ground. He is either a traitor who compromised national security and ran away, or a patriot not afraid of consequences in the name of public service.

Student voices lifted at poetry open mic night

The Black Student Union and members of the Spoken Word poetry team hosted the “Lift Every Voice” open mic night Feb. 3 at Pappas Artisanal in downtown La Verne.

Delgado discusses racial tensions in Ferguson

“Do black lives matter? Ferguson as a Window to Race in the United States” was the topic of discussion Thursday in the President’s Dining Room as part of the monthly Hot Spots lecture series.