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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – March 21, 2023

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, annually observed every March 21, pays tribute to 69 peaceful protesters in Sharpeville, South Africa, who on this day in 1960 were gunned down by police authorities while protesting against apartheid pass laws. Aggrieved by the senseless tragedy, the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 proclaimed March 21 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, urging the world to join hands to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. 2021’s theme — “Youth standing up against racism” accompanied with the hashtag #FightRacism, called on individuals to stand up against racial prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance and embrace equality.

History of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The roots of racism can be traced in American history. Race, racism, and slavery are intertwined. Whereas the word race dates back to the early 1500s used in identifying people, today, it is often associated with the formatted concepts by groups that allow or deny certain privileges. In America and many other countries, the notion of race was utilized to oppress and the same is true to date though in earlier times it was used as a justification for forced labor. Slavery can be traced many centuries back. In ancient times before the 16th century, enslavement was acceptable for various reasons.

Between the 1550s to 1600, the term ‘white’ referred mostly to the exclusive privilege of the elite English women. Whiteness was an exclusive privilege of the Anglo-Saxon heritage, however by 1613, the English had adopted the term ‘white’ while posing against the East Indians for colonial pursuits. The early 1600s saw the roots of African American slavery firmly established when the first Africans were captured and brought to the American colonies for enslaved labor. By this period, enslavement status didn’t automatically apply to the African lineage as a lifetime status. But the notion of enslavement witnessed a drastic change in 1662 when Virginia enacted the law of hereditary slavery, transferring the status of children from their mother’s legal status, automatically becoming slaves, by the 19th century, racism had spread around the world, dubbing African Americans as lesser beings, while whites were seen as smarter and more capable.

Racism roots are reflected in the 1990s noble eugenics movement; ‘eugenics’ translated to well-born and discouraging reproduction by people with defects or undesirable traits. ‘Aryanism,’ an ideology dubbing the Aryans archaic Indo-European language speakers as superior, enforced this belief of white supremacy. The ideology of racial superiority persists today.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination timeline

1500s
First Enslaved Africans Arrive in North America

About 350 Kimbundu-speaking people from Angola are held captive and forced by slave traders.

1600s
Race in Use Concerning Humans

Before the term race was used concerning kinship, this then translated to feelings of supremacy.

1619
Slaves Arrive in Jamestown Colony

John Rolfe documents the arrival of “20 and odd” Africans at the James River, Virginia.

1662
Children Adopt Mothers’ Slave Status

“Partus sequitur ventrem” is adopted into law in Virginia.

1667
New Virginia Law Breaks Limits on Servitude

It was legal to bind enslaved people under servitude even upon conversion to Christianity.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination FAQs

When is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination?

It is annually observed every March 21. It commemorates the day in 1960 when police opened fire and killed 69 peaceful protesters in Sharpeville, South Africa, who stood against the apartheid pass laws.

Who established International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination?

The United Nations proclaimed March 21 every year the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966. Every year on March 21, it calls on the global world to eliminate racism and discriminatory practices.

Which country first proclaimed International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination?

In 1989, the Government of British Columbia first proclaimed the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

How to Observe International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

  1. Stand up against racism

    Racism is at our every turn, don’t just be against it, speak up. Lend your voice in the struggle, and inform the authorities. Together we can pull down strongholds of discrimination and racism.

  2. Lead by example

    Let love and kindness to all be your mantra. Let fairness and kindness for human rights guard your every action and imbibe acts of kindness, love, and equal respect for children.

  3. Join the movement

    There are initiatives around you powering the equal rights movement. Volunteer your support such as #BlackLivesMatter. Whether virtual through the hashtags #StopRacism #InternationalDayfortheEliminationofRacialDiscrimination or physically via events or on the streets.

5 Interesting Facts About International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination

  1. Haiti

    Upon Haiti formally declaring independence from France in 1804, it abolishes slavery.

  2. Mauritania World’s Last Country to Abolish Slavery

    In 2007 slavery became a crime but even today, slavery still strongly persists in the country.

  3. Police Brutality Leading Cause of Death

    Police brutality is the sixth-leading cause of death for black men in the U.S.

  4. 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement

    #BlackLivesMatter, a movement that shook the world with about 26 million participants.

  5. 1900s Colorism Has Roots in the church

    Churches are guilty of discrimination against dark skin tones and using hair-comb tests.

Why International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is Important

  1. It fosters anti-tolerance for discrimination culture

    This important day urges us to own our power as individuals and collectively to stand up against racial prejudice, deep-seated inequalities, intolerance, and discriminatory attitudes. It’s certainly a worthy cause.

  2. It encourages us to stand up for our rights

    We all are created equal regardless of race, color, or skin. We are reminded of this empowering fact urging us to know and stand up for ourselves.

  3. It reminds us that peace and respect are important

    To promote a more empowered united world, promotion of and respect for human rights and human dignity must take center stage to promote peace. It is an important message to carry out into the world.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination dates

YearDateDay
2023March 21Tuesday
2024March 21Thursday
2025March 21Friday
2026March 21Saturday
2027March 21Sunday

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