Happy International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination!

21 Mar

Happy International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination!

Today is a great day to notice not only how you stand up to discrimination in your everyday life, but what you’re actively doing to end it in your communities.

For inspiration, here’s an excerpt from a statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay about today:

The relationship between racism and conflict is a deep-rooted, well-established one. A number of studies have shown that one of the earliest indicators of potential violence is the chronic disregard of minority rights. One survey by an international non-governmental organization indicated that more than 55 per cent of violent conflicts of a significant intensity between 2007 and 2009 had violations of minority rights or tensions between communities at their core…

Prevention of such conflict is clearly more desirable than later attempts to douse the flames and begin difficult processes of rebuilding, reconciliation and justice – not to mention the human and social costs. But the problem is that the earliest warnings of prejudice and discord are so often ignored, and it is only when the later, more sinister signs begin to emerge that the State and the international community react…

On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I call on [you] to heed the early warnings of prejudice, stereotypes, ignorance and xenophobia. I call on [you] to address, urgently, the marginalization and exclusion of individuals belonging to certain communities from political and economic decision-making. I call for a process of consultation and constant dialogue with all sectors of society, a redoubling of efforts to ensure that access to jobs, to land, to political and economic rights is not contingent on one’s colour, ethnic, national or racial background, and that development projects do not disproportionately disadvantage a particular community…

Leaving the dangerous societal problems of prejudice and racism to simmer on the back burner creates a real risk of explosive conflicts erupting, years or decades later. Racism and prejudice can provide, propel and perpetuate the narratives that create and sustain conflict – whether in the developed or developing world. Let us not wait until grievances turn to violence or prejudice turns to genocide before we take action (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1203/S00415/statement-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-racism.htm).

While Pillay addresses racist conflict and violence on the national and international levels, she also acknowledges that genocide and ethnic cleansing are rooted in everyday prejudice and discrimination practiced by average, ordinary citizens.

So today, as part of the effort to eliminate racial discrimination, what will you do?

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