A Message From Our Founder, Dr. Danny M. Cohen:
WE ARE WITNESSING ONGOING ATROCITY
This is cruel and inhumane. Not only has the United States government forcibly transferred immigrant children, including infants, away from their parents, but it has done so without any system in place to ensure that families will be reunited.
Of course this is not the only way in which the U.S. government is harming people without having to face any consequence. The list is long, and includes injustices related to mass incarceration, toxic drinking water, inadequate or nonexistent disaster responses, unequal or no access to medical care, and on and on.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and unable to act. At Unsilence, we are always asking: In the face of systemic violations of human rights and ongoing injustice, how should we respond?
First, we must name these violations.
In the case of separated immigrant families, the Trump Administration is acting in defiance of agreed-upon international legal norms of human rights. These are statutes, conventions, and declarations that the U.S. has signed and, in most cases, even helped to write.* The suffering and trauma that the U.S. government continues to inflict on infants, children, and parents are so extreme that the lives of these families have been altered, perhaps shattered, forever.
Second, we must speak up.
We cannot allow violence and atrocity perpetrated by state actors to go unchallenged. The U.S. government must be held accountable for its actions. We cannot be silent.
36 QUESTIONS TO STAY FOCUSED & ENGAGED
At Unsilence, we know that having conversations about injustice and atrocity can be hard. We all struggle with how to respond when we witness what we know is wrong, especially when those wrongs are ongoing and cumulative. Part of the solution is to engage in collective reflection. By talking and processing together, and by listening to different points of view, we can find real, lasting solutions to the injustices of our time -- and we can begin to heal.
Below are 36 questions for us to consider -- organized by theme -- as a way to help us process these still unfolding events and find effective ways to act, as individuals and together. We encourage you to share these questions with your families, with your children, with your friends and colleagues, and, if possible, with your community leaders and elected officials.
At Unsilence, we believe -- because we’ve seen it -- that the act of unsilencing is contagious. If we talk about injustice and atrocity, if we bring others into the conversation, then we can amplify our voices, force our leaders to pay attention, and drive real change.
Dr. Danny M. Cohen
Founder & Creative Director
36 QUESTIONS TO UNSILENCE HUMAN RIGHTS
1. When we witness injustice and atrocity, how do we feel?
2. Can we name our emotions?
3. Our emotions -- of feeling overwhelmed, outraged, sad, confused, helpless, and even numb -- are normal. Why do we feel these emotions?
4. How does it feel to know that these emotions are normal?
5. What can we do to feel less overwhelmed and helpless while still feeling engaged and hopeful?
6. Why is it so hard to have meaningful, productive conversations about injustice and atrocity?
7. Why do news outlets and social media often stifle meaningful, productive conversations?
8. What barriers prevent us from taking action?
9. What rules and policies have institutions created that stop us from talking about injustice and atrocity?
10. What cultural norms and unwritten rules keep us silent?
11. What personal barriers are stopping us from speaking up and taking action?
12. Is there something we’re afraid of?
13. Is that fear real or imagined?
14. When we read and watch the news, when we see distressing images, what is “too much”?
15. What is the difference between “too much” and not wanting to be uncomfortable?
16. Do we want to really help, or do we just want to make ourselves feel useful and less uncomfortable?
17. How are we reminding ourselves that the “news” and “stories” are real people’s lives?
18. What stops us from fully humanizing "others"?
19. What prevents us from feeling empathy and compassion for people we don't know?
20. What helps us build empathy?
21. What information do we need to seek to help us take a stand?
22. What do we need to unlearn?
23. What are the ways we’ve been taught to think and feel (and not think and not feel) about injustice and atrocity?
24. From where can we get trusted information?
25. Which sources are misleading, false, or disempowering?
26. Do we feel valid in saying “no, not this,” even if we don’t have all of the answers?
COMMUNITY & ACTION
27. Who are our communities?
28. What communities can we connect with?
29. What prevents us from connecting with communities of action?
30. We need hope to navigate darkness. Where do we find hope?
31. Who is already doing work on these injustices?
32. How do we make sure we don't reinvent the wheel?
33. How can we be a part of the solution, rather than sitting back and observing?
34. What are our skills?
35. What are our natural interests?
36. Do we believe we have something tangible to contribute? The answer is always YES -- each of us has something to contribute.
These questions are just the beginning. By having these conversations, we are building a foundation for future individual and collective action.
Thank you for being part of our Unsilence community. Our growing team is working hard to create engaging learning experiences that spark the urgent dialogue that will help us change the world for the better.
* Article 7 of The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) guarantees every child "as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents"; Article 7 of The International Criminal Court's Rome Statute (1998) defines Crimes Against Humanity to include: "Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty; [and] Other inhumane acts [...] intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health"; Article 12 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) protects every person from interference of the family.