March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is a result of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. Today, it challenges us to confront the harsh reality of racial discrimination, a far-reaching issue that we continue to grapple with today.
By celebrating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we start saying no to racial discrimination in all its forms and yes to equality among all human beings. Read on to learn more.
Featured in: March - Awareness Months, Days & Observances
History and Background of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly established the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
On March 21, 1960, South Africans held a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid regime’s recent ‘pass laws.” Suddenly, police opened fire, killing 69 people. The massacre pushed the international community to double down on their efforts to wipe out racial discrimination.
In 1979, during the second half of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, the UN launched a program of activities for a week of solidarity with people fighting racism and racial discrimination.
Since then, the world has seen progress in wiping out racism. For example, in 1994, Nelson Mandela, once jailed for his stand against apartheid, became the first Black President of South Africa.
Then, in 2001, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action emerged. It's the most comprehensive program ever for battling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.
The Cause and Its Challenges
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urges us to strive for a world without racial bias and prejudice.
Today, racism and racial discrimination continue to resonate across cultures and societies. They worm into the very fabric of society, touching individuals and communities in profound ways.
Racial discrimination affects one in six people worldwide1, according to the United Nations.
For those on the receiving end, the effects are often life-altering; people often face barriers to employment, education, and housing. Likewise, racism stifles potential, perpetuates social exclusion, and traps its victims in a cycle of poverty.
Moreover, communities also suffer from racism. Racially discriminated neighborhoods often grapple with reduced access to quality education and healthcare. They also face increased exposure to environmental hazards and grapple with high crime and violence rates.
Efforts and Initiatives
The United Nations has been at the forefront of this effort since 2001, with a comprehensive program designed to combat racism, racial discrimination, and intolerance. This initiative is still in progress, educating and mobilizing people worldwide to fight against racial prejudice.
Fighting racism is also part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goals.
Likewise, one of the significant players in this effort is UNESCO, which is actively working towards making cities inclusive and sustainable through its International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities program. The program focuses on education and understanding, aiming to eliminate racial discrimination in cities and make everyone welcome.
Additionally, Amnesty International highlights human rights violations connected to racial discrimination through their campaigns, which raise public awareness.
On the other hand, the Southern Poverty Law Center is a non-profit organization that uses the legal system to hold those responsible for hate crimes accountable.
How to Get Involved and Support the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
You can contribute to the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in several ways. Attending local events or rallies is a great place to start. These meetings broaden your horizons, sharing unique experiences and insights. They also strengthen the bonds within your community.
On the other hand, you can organize a discussion group instead. These places are a haven for friends, co-workers, or locals to exchange experiences, ideas, and tactics.
Moreover, you can educate yourself by reading books, watching documentaries, or taking online courses. You'll gain new perspectives, which you can pass on to others.
Then, you can share facts, personal tales, or your educational journey on social media. Your actions can create a domino effect, transforming your followers into advocates.
Organizations that strive to eliminate racism also need help; you might be the person for the job. Your role could range from office work to event planning or supporting those facing racial discrimination.
Finally, you can donate to these organizations. Otherwise, you can help host a fundraiser like a charity auction, a bake sale, or even a sponsored run.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reminds us to address racial inequality. Racial discrimination violates human rights and poses a threat to our communities.
We must educate ourselves about the subtle forms of discrimination, the scope of the problem, and its implications. Let’s share this knowledge to spark conversations, advance equality, and challenge stereotypes. Combating racism and racial inequality is truly a collective effort.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination FAQs
It is a global observance that aims to combat racism and promote equality for all individuals.
It is observed annually every March 21st.
It ensures that all individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity, are treated with dignity, respect, and equality.
Typical forms of racial discrimination include racial profiling, hate speech, segregation, discriminatory hiring practices, and unequal access to education, healthcare, and housing.
You can educate yourself and others, advocate for inclusive policies and laws, speak out against racism, engage in respectful dialogue, support organizations that fight against discrimination, and promote diversity and inclusion in your personal and professional life.
United Nations. (2023b). The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023.