International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination 2024

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

On March 21st, 1960, a peaceful protest against the apartheid pass laws in South Africa ended when the police opened fire and killed 69 innocent protestors and injured 180 other people in what's now known as the Sharpeville Massacre, named after the South African city in which it occurred. 

After the Sharpeville, South Africa event, the United Nations General Assembly called a world conference, encouraging the international community to unite in solidarity to end racism and racial discrimination. Each year, the events of March 21st, 1960, are commemorated by the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as a means to combat racism and end racial prejudice through acts of discrimination.

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Why celebrate a day for racial discrimination?

Individuals worldwide honor this day to raise awareness of ways to fight racial discrimination, xenophobia, hate speech, encourage acceptance and kindness, and educate the world on injustices surrounding race. Each year these international days have involved a specific theme. Past themes have included the following:

  • "The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination" 
  • "Learning from Tragedies to Combat Racial Discrimination Today"
  • "Disqualify Racism" 
  • "Racial Profiling and Incitement to Hatred, Including in the Context of Migration"

2023's theme is "Voices for Action Against Racism," emphasizing the benefit of community voice and public participation while encouraging universal representation. The theme focuses on safety and valuing peaceful assembly, civic spaces, and organized expression against racial discrimination. 

Preventing racial discrimination and prejudice can involve more than a one-day event or public holiday observed annually. Efforts to end racism and advance equality are year-long, life-long practices. However, honoring this holiday can be part of recognizing the historical injustice of the event in 1960 and making efforts toward another year of change for human dignity.

Ways to celebrate in 2023 

Anyone can celebrate and advocate for change on the, including those impacted by racism and allies. Below are a few ways to honor this day in 2023.

Educate yourself about racial discrimination

Racial discrimination and intolerant attitudes toward people of African descent and other races, ethnicities, or groups are present in many communities, including those that try to eliminate racism. One way to honor the day is to take the time to educate or re-educate yourself on your country's history of racial discrimination and how racism is perpetuated within your community and personal life.

You can find quality education and resources from Racial Equity Tools to read about historical racial discrimination, current discriminatory policies, and other advocacy areas. The Center for Racial Justice includes resources for children so that you can discuss racial discrimination with youth in your family or community. 

Donate to an organization devoted to racial equality

In addition to donating your time and efforts to community building, donating money may help pioneering organizations make a change. Thousands of organizations are dedicated to ending racism, supporting individuals affected by forms of racial discrimination or related intolerance, and spreading community awareness. Alternatively, you can research nearby charities to donate to or volunteer your time.

Look for an organization that is clear about its goals and where your money will go. You can find direct advocates or organizations that indirectly combat the impact of racism by researching global, national, and local options. A few potential organizations to look into include the following:

Identify areas for growth in professional or educational policies with discrimination

Regardless of your position at work, you may be able to take a leadership role in examining the policies at your workplace or school. Explore your company's approaches and read the employee guidelines to find areas where the company could grow in diversity. For example, you may evaluate your company's hiring practices, the system for dealing with complaints of discrimination, or the professional development agenda. 

If your company or school has no practices for combating racial discrimination, work with other employees or students to devise a plan for change that you can present to your management. You might gather a group of coworkers or peers to file a request for change or write a letter to executives and administrators encouraging them to make policy adjustments so that the work against racial discrimination continues. If you're not directly impacted by racism, consider having someone who is impacted lead the campaign, as they may have more insights into what would help these policies change.

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Spread the word on and offline

Raising awareness for racial discrimination can help encourage others to take action inside and outside your community. You can spread the word on social media using hashtags like:

  • #FightRacism
  • #StandUpForHumanRights
  • #InternationalDayForTheEliminationOfRacialDiscrimination
  • #AntiRacismDay
  • #UNInternationalDays
  • #HumanRightsDay2023

With your post, you can include links to the UN's official page or resources for others to explore. You can also add a link to an organization you suggest donating to in honor of this public holiday or a note about how you plan on combating racism in your community. The United Nations also created a website to upload a picture of yourself to #StandUp4HumanRights, as a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so you can support the international community to redouble the effort to end racism.

If you are part of a community facing racial discrimination, you can also spread the word about what allies can do to advocate for your community. If there are books, podcasts, or movies that you can watch live by people in your community that inspire you, consider sharing these with others to interact with. 

Contact your local government officials to encourage change

Reaching out to local officials may have value. If you're not already familiar, commit to learning about local politicians', high commisioners’ or state officials' policies and beliefs. Send an email, write a letter, or call about your concerns for your community and what your representatives can do to help. You can also ask your friends and family to do the same. Multiple people can be more potent than one. As reflected by 2023's theme of Voices for Action Against Racism, gathering voices can show politicians that these topics are non-negotiable to their community members as too many individudals are suffering what racism brings. 

When discussing this matter with officials, ask them about their strategy for improving quality of life and decreasing racial discrimination in your community. If they are taking direct action in a way that harms you or your community, you might back up your request with resources and research to show them how their actions may cause harm. 

Plan a call with friends and family

Talking to friends and family about racism and racial discrimination can be vital in eliminating it. Even in communities that fight to prevent racial discrimination, it often exists on a social level. Consider arranging a video call, phone call, or in-person meeting to discuss topics relating to racial discrimination with your family and friends. 

As the group leader, come prepared with conversation topics and potential activities. You might discuss your plans for combatting racial discrimination in the coming year, experiences you've had in the past, and plans of action for how you can work as a group. Even if you haven't discussed these topics with your loved ones in the past, you might find that they are interested in joining in on the conversation. You can also consider a peaceful demonstration in your list of ideas to stand up for human rights. 

Speak up 

Many people may notice that their family members hold racist beliefs they express at family events, as a "joke," or while watching the news. If you hear a family member making a racist comment, supporting a discriminatory cause, or talking about harmful stereotypes, speak up. Although it can be uncomfortable to disagree with a family member, being an ally to other communities can mean using your privilege and voice to let others know when their actions contributing to hate and discrimination are part of what is making societies suffer.

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Counseling options for racial discrimination

Those directly or indirectly affected by racial discrimination may experience challenges with mental health. Research shows that experiencing racial discrimination or racial injustice can increase the risk of mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In these cases, reaching out to a therapist can be beneficial. However, many people who experience racism may hesitate to ask for support due to a fear of discrimination in mental healthcare. In these cases, online therapy may offer you the option to choose a BIPOC or culturally informed therapist. 

Online therapy may also make it easier to find a professional who understands how racial discrimination affects you and others. Studies show that race-informed therapy effectively empowers individuals with healthy coping strategies against racism-based trauma. When you meet with a professional through the web, you can switch your therapist anytime if you feel they are not supporting you as needed.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

If you're interested in getting started, consider signing up for an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. A platform can allow you to choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions and get connected with a therapist quickly, often within 48 hours of signing up for support.  

Takeaway

There are many ways to honor the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, including acting as an advocate and encouraging others in your community to follow suit. 

If you're struggling with your mental health related to your identity or the challenges in your community, a mental health professional can help you navigate these experiences. Consider reaching out to a therapist to gain further insight into the process.

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