On March 21, 1960, a peaceful protest against apartheid pass laws in South Africa was brutally ended when police opened fire on the crowd. The police killed 69 innocent protestors and injured 180 other people in what's now known as the Sharpeville Massacre, after the South African city it occurred in.
After the Sharpeville South Africa event, the United Nations General Assembly called a world conference, featuring the international community, in many countries, to come together to work against different forms of racism. In South Africa, the massacre is remembered through Human Rights Day, celebrated yearly on March 21. Although, one should be striving to educate and inform themselves year round, Juneteenth is another time of the year to increase awareness, as well as recognize and celebrate that we are all human beings, born free, and worthy of health, equality, and positive well being.
We honor the day in efforts to find ways to fight racial discrimination, such as the forms of discrimination that transpired due to apartheid, encourage acceptance and kindness, and educate the world on our history and current injustices. Each year has a specific theme, such as, "The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination" and "Learning from Tragedies to Combat Racial Discrimination.”
This year's theme is, "Voices for Action Against Racism," emphasizing the importance of community voice, bringing together public participation, and encouraging universal representation. It will focus on safety and valuing peaceful assembly, civic space, and organized expression against racial discrimination. This theme was adopted from a report from the High Commissioner of the UN.
However, before this event occurred, in 1948, the General Assembly drafted a document that states the human rights of everyone, which addresses discrimination, being free to move around within their respective areas, as well as other topics.
Preventing racial discrimination and racial prejudice is more than just a one-day event or a public holiday observed annually. It is a year-long, life-long practice. However, honoring International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as well as Human Rights Day, on March 21st is important to recognize the historical injustice of the event that occurred in 1960 and make efforts toward another year of change. Whether you are working with a community or individually to honor the day, there are a variety of options.
How to Honor International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2022:
Racial discrimination and intolerant attitudes towards people of African descent, as well as other races, ethnicities, or groups, is present in most communities, even those that make efforts to eliminate it. One of the best ways to honor the day is to take the time to educate or re-educate yourself on your country's history of racial discrimination and what it looks like today. This is something that the international community can accomplish, or in virtually any country. Focusing on your own community or nation can help you educate those around you, and plan ways to move towards a future free of discrimination.
Find other resources on sites like Racial Equity Tools to read up on historical racial discrimination, current discriminatory policies, and more. The Center for Racial Justice also has a set of resources developed specifically for children, so you can discuss racial discrimination with youth in your family or community.
In addition to donating your time and efforts to community building, donating money is an excellent way to honor the day. 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 other charities near you to spread your financial contributions to other agencies, or volunteer your time in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
If you're unfamiliar with any local, national, or international organizations, do some research to find one that fits your values best. 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. For example, World Against Racism Museum, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or Minority Rights Group International.
Regardless of your position, you can take a leadership role in examining the policies at your workplace or school. All it takes is a dive into your group's approaches to assess them for areas where you can work with other leaders to grow. For example, evaluate your company's hiring practices, the system for dealing with complaints of discrimination, or the professional development agenda. You can do the same at your school.
If your company or school doesn't currently have any practices in place for managing issues surrounding racial discrimination, make a plan for how that can be dealt with. Whether that's gathering a group of coworkers or peers to file a request for change or writing a letter to executives and administrators encouraging them to make policy adjustments, you can incite change internally.
Raising awareness for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination can help encourage others to take action, in and out of your community. You can spread the word on social media using hashtags like:
With your post, you can include links to the UN's official page for the day or resources for others to check out. You might even 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 this year. The United Nations also created a site to upload a picture of yourself to #StandUp4HumanRights, as a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Reaching out to local officials can be more powerful than you may think. If you're not already familiar, take some time to learn about your local politicians or state officials. Then, reach out via email, mail, or phone. You can refer to a specific policy, suggesting they change it, such as a recent event of racial discrimination or a statistic you've heard about discrimination in your community.
In addition, you can ask them about their strategy for improving quality of life and decreasing racial discrimination in your community. Encourage friends and family to contact their local officials, even if they live in other countries, about the same policies or questions. Remember that multiple people are more powerful than one, and matching this year's theme of Voices for Action Against Racism, gathering voices together can be a better bringer of change than a singular voice.
Talking to friends and family about racism and racial discrimination is hugely vital in the fight to eliminate it. Even in communities that fight to prevent many forms of racial discrimination, it often still exists. To combat that in your community, open up a conversation with your friends or family. You can arrange a video call, phone call, or in-person meeting to discuss topics relating to the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
As the group leader, come prepared with conversation topics and even activity ideas. Think of things like your individual plans for combatting racial discrimination in the coming year, experiences you've had in the past year that showed racism in your communities, and plans of action for how you can work as a group. Invite friends and family to the call that you may not think of. Even if you haven't discussed topics like this with them in the past, you might find that they are interested in joining, especially when you give them a detailed plan for what you will be discussing and how important it is for community growth. You may even consider a peaceful demonstration in your list of ideas to stand up for human rights.
Whether you have been directly or indirectly affected by racial discrimination, it can impact your mental health. Experiencing racial discrimination or racial injustice can increase the risk of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Learning about how the traumas of racial discrimination can be burdensome on mental health may give you a greater understanding of your own experience or that of your peers. With that knowledge, you may feel empowered to seek help for yourself by contacting a professional therapist like our team at BetterHelp. Studies show that race-informed therapy may effectively treat adults and empower them with healthy coping strategies against race-based trauma due to racial discrimination. Beginning counseling services can give you a safe space to discuss your experiences with the support of a licensed health care provider.