Testimony before the MA Joint Committee on education, 6/14/2011
On Genocide Education
My name is MacKenzie Hamilton, and I am a junior at Smith College. I serve as the Northeast Outreach Coordinator on the Management Committee of STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition. I first appeared before this committee in June 2009, when I testified for this same bill, and will continue returning to the state house until this bill is passed.
Scholarship and activism go hand in hand. An end to genocide will not be achieved without the education of future generations. Genocide and mass atrocities of past and present, their effects are on post-conflict countries, and their relevance to international law need to be taught. In an increasingly global world where there are heavy gaps between economic classes and standards of living, it is important that students learn both the internal and external causes of genocide and the consequences that it has on the world as a whole.
Students need to learn beyond the Holocaust. They need to learn about the genocides in the Americas, Armenia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur. That it has happened to people of every race and creed. Students need to learn that genocide is not something long-gone, but something that has been allowed to perpetuate into the 21st century. They need to know that their voices are critical to ending the cycle of violence that has been going on for so long. This sort of empowerment is invaluable to the democratic system on which we pride ourselves. The preservation of memory is something we owe to the survivors of Rwanda and Cambodia, to the relatives of survivors of Armenia and the Holocaust. Education both preserves the memories of victims and offers a chance for the prevention of future genocides.
Prevention is important for many reasons, not the least of which is saving billions of US tax dollars. The 2008 Genocide Prevention Task Force Report, chaired by Madeline Albright and William Cohen, outlined recommendations for policymakers to end and prevent genocide and mass atrocities. I quote from the report, “The international community […] is called on to absorb and assist displaced people, provide relief efforts, and bear high economic costs. And the longer we wait to act, the more expensive the price tag. For example, in Bosnia, the [US] has invested nearly $15 billion to support peacekeeping forces in the years since we belatedly intervened to stop mass atrocities” (GPTF, xx).
Finally, I am also going to suggest two slight changes to the bill’s language. First, I would like to suggest the language of “Case studies of at least 2 such genocides may be used to demonstrate the concept of genocide” to “shall be used to demonstrate…” as we have discussed today, learning about the Holocaust as the only case of genocide is not sufficient for students. Second, both because it is grammatically and historically incorrect, I suggest you change “the genocide of Rwandan Tutsis” to, simply, “the genocide of Rwandans.” Both Hutu and Tutsi were killed in the genocide, and we should acknowledge the thousands of moderate Hutu who were killed during the genocide, and that there were atrocities committed by both sides.
The public in Massachusetts is overwhelmingly in support of anti-genocide legislation. Across the state, there are over 30 student-led STAND chapters including Boston College, Northeastern University, Clark University, Smith College, UMass Amherst, Tufts University, and many dedicated high school chapters throughout the state. Today representatives from Western, Central, and Eastern Massachusetts have come together once again to raise our voices for genocide education. We hope that you will consider us, our communities, and the global community when discussing this bill. Thank you.