High hopes

Elizabeth Miller (MNHAN241@SIVM.SI.EDU)
Wed, 6 Sep 1995 10:04:18 EDT

Please forgive the soapbox, and bear with me. I could not resist replying to
this post, and I do think that we, as anthropologists and other interested
parties, must look at Mr. Johnson's comments here.

Robert Johnson wrote:
"Concerning Mrs. Clinton's visit, an anthropological view...

Isn't it typical of the "white liberal" in America to ignore abuses by police,
banning of indigenous peoples rights to speak, showing complicity by
association with governments who systematically murder their own people,
and yet proceed with "high hopes."

Reminds me of American Anthropology."

Well, Mr. Johnson, perhaps you can answer several questions for me. First,
there are many, many NGOs in Beijing right now which definitely DO NOT support
human rights abuses anywhere in the world, regardless of the government.
Organizations such as Human Rights Network, Human Rights in China, and Amnesty
International, to name only a few. These organizations, like Ms. Clinton, are
using the UN conference as a forum to expose the peoples of China, and the
world, to these injustices which you mentioned in your post. Amnesty, for
example, has been staging very visible protests of human rights abuses in
China. And, from the excerpts I have seen and heard of Ms. Clinton's speech,
she is doing the same. Rather than ignoring the abuses of the police, the
banning of the rights of indigenous peoples to be represented and to speak,
etc., these groups are bringing these abuses to the forefront of public
thought once again. For instance, Ms. Clinton is quoted (in the Phoenix
Gazette) as saying, "It is indefensible that many women in non-governmental
organizations who wished to participate in this conference have not been
able to attend, or have been prohibited from fully taking part." She has also
made such comments as (again from the Phoenix Gazette) "It is a violation of
human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and
that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their
will," and "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let
it be that human rights are women's rights. And women's rights are human
rights." And, finally, "Everyone knows that our government has spoken out
on behalf of human rights with respect to China and other countries, that there
have been disagreements leading up to this conference...it's important that
we try to have an honest relationship." Although I strongly disagreed with
the choice of sites for the conference, there is not a country on this planet
which does not have some form of human rights abuses, and I have turned my
thinking around. I, too, have "high hopes" that the focus of the world on
China right now, and the focus of the world on the abuses which the Chinese
government is apparently practicing at the conference, will help to change
things, even just a little. I, too, have "high hopes" that as anthropologists
we can understand the differences in culture, and work within those cultural
differences, to effect a change in the status of human rights in China, and in
every other country represented at the conference in Beijing.

And yes, I am part of the "white liberal" society about which Mr. Johnson

Elizabeth Miller, Ph.D.___(MNHAN241@SIVM.SI.EDU)
Office of Repatriation, MRC 138
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C. 20560 (202) 786-2933