Editors note: Rose Rucoba ’19 is a student journalist working in the Office of Marketing and Communications. As a participant in one of the events during Human Rights Week, Rose shares her experience of feeling empowered to create change and be a voice for the voiceless.
Being a college student, I often find it difficult to remember that my voice matters to the government. Human Rights Week is a time to not just remember that my voice matters but also a time to turn my words into actions.
During Human Rights Week Feb. 18-26, UD focused on capital punishment and the incarceration system in the U.S. Students heard speakers, watched and discussed films, and participated in a Criminal Justice Plunge where students spent time at Good Shepard Ministries, a shelter that provides services to those reentering society after incarceration.
I personally participated in Liberation Letter Writing, a letter-writing event that kicked off Human Rights Week in Kennedy Union’s Torch Lounge. We wrote letters to Ohio Gov. John Kasich opposing the death penalty.
Volunteer student organizers handed participants fact sheets with statistics regarding capital punishment: race in the incarceration system, the costs of keeping inmates on death row, and the appalling number of people on death row who are found to be innocent.
In my letter, I focused on race. Data showed that it is the race of the victim, not the perpetrator, that determines incarceration. The fact sheet also showed that far more black men go to prison for killing white victims than white men do for killing black victims. As a result, there is a disproportionate number of minority inmates on death row.
In my writing, I tried to persuade Kasich on two issues I feel strongly about. First, that allowing the racial injustice to go on in the Ohio incarceration system means that the state is allowing racism as a whole to persist in the nation. Second, abolishing the death penalty would be guaranteeing the dignity and human rights of every person, no matter his or her race.
The Liberation Letter Writing event gave me a sense of power I had never experienced before. For once I was sending my true opinions out into the world instead of just simply remaining a name on a petition.
In learning about capital punishment, I came to realize that people who have suffered from abuse and addiction are often the ones who end up on death row. I believe these individuals need treatment and help, not death. Yet, their voices go unheard.
Participating in Human Rights Week, though, gave me hope that if I continue to push the government and use my voice, the day may come when those in power finally decide to listen.