The world is celebrating International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, a day that reminds us of the need to fight against racism and discrimination in all its forms. The day marks the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, when police in South Africa killed 69 peaceful protesters who were opposing apartheid laws.
The United Nations declared this day in 1966 to promote human rights and dignity for all people, regardless of their race, color, ethnicity or religion. The theme for this year is “Urgency of combatting racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)”, which calls for prompt and robust actions to advance equality and combat racism.
In the United States (US) Racism is a system of advantage based on race that systematically benefits White Americans and disadvantages Americans of color. It is a deeply rooted and widespread problem in the United States that affects every aspect of society, from education and health to criminal justice and politics. Racism also impacts the lives of millions of immigrants who come to America seeking freedom and opportunity but often face discrimination and violence.
One of the most shocking examples of racism in America was the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, by a White police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. The officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, ignoring his pleas for air and his cries of “I can’t breathe”. The incident was captured on video and sparked global outrage and protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Floyd’s death was not an isolated incident, but one of many cases of violence against Black people by law enforcement officers or vigilantes. Some of the other victims include Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake, Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant. These killings have exposed the systemic racism that pervades the criminal justice system in America, where Black people are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, incarcerated and killed by police than White people.
Racism also affects other racial or ethnic groups in America, such as Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Middle Eastern Americans. These groups face various forms of discrimination, harassment, hate crimes and stereotypes that limit their opportunities and well-being. For example, Native Americans have been subjected to genocide, displacement and cultural erasure throughout history; Asian Americans have faced a surge of anti-Asian attacks amid the COVID-19 pandemic; Hispanic Americans have been targeted by immigration policies that separate families and detain children; Middle Eastern Americans have been scapegoated as terrorists or extremists after 9/11.
Moreover, racism impacts millions of immigrants who come to America from different parts of the world seeking a better life. Many immigrants are Black or people of color who face double discrimination based on their race and nationality. Some immigrants have fled war-torn countries or oppressive regimes only to encounter violence or hostility in their new home. For example, Patrick Lyoya was a 26-year-old who escaped from the Democratic Republic of Congo with his family nearly eight years ago. He was shot dead by a police officer in Michigan during a routine traffic stop last month.
Racism in America is not a new phenomenon but a historical legacy that dates back to the era of colonialism and slavery. The United States was founded on the exploitation and oppression of millions of Africans who were kidnapped from their homeland and forced to work as slaves for White colonizers. The institution of slavery created a racial hierarchy that placed White people at the top and Black people at the bottom. This hierarchy was reinforced by laws that denied Black people basic rights such as citizenship, voting, education, and property ownership.
Even after slavery was abolished in 1865 following the Civil War, racism continued to shape American society through segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, redlining, voter suppression, mass incarceration, economic inequality, environmental injustice, health disparities, educational gaps, media representation, cultural appropriation, microaggressions, implicit bias, colorism, internalized racism, and white privilege. These are some of the factors that contribute to racism in America today according to psychological research.
Racism in America is not inevitable or irreversible but can be challenged and changed through collective action . Many activists, organizations, movements , allies , educators , artists, scholars, policymakers, and ordinary citizens have been working tirelessly to combat racism and promote racial justice in various ways . Some examples include the civil rights movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Stop Asian Hate movement, the Indigenous rights movement, the immigrant rights movement, the anti-racist education movement, the diversity training movement, the reparations movement, the affirmative action movement, and many others.
These efforts aim to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, confront prejudice, dismantle systems, reform policies, redistribute resources, empower communities, celebrate diversity, foster solidarity, and create equity among all races and ethnicities in America.
Racism in America is a complex and multifaceted.