Remembering the diversity of cultures, races, and ethnicities that is our reality today, I would like to share a few thoughts. After March 21 1960, my parents made the decision to move our family from South Africa to Botswana where I grew up. They wanted to protect us kids although it was the three youngest out of eight that were able to move with my mother to Botswana. My older siblings, who were in school, remained in South Africa; some later came and joined the three of us and some could not. To this day my family remains scattered because of racial discrimination and apartheid policies.
The United Nations recognized that the cruel policies of racial discrimination and apartheid (that resulted in the Sharpeville Massacre on March 21st 1960) were not unique to South Africa but were existent sometimes overtly and other times surreptitiously braided in the unspoken social norms across different countries. The then continuing inhuman treatment of people of different races in South Africa and the current, ongoing conflicts, injustices, and social inequities going on in different parts of the world necessitated a wider consciousness raising. We needed to intentionally recognize and acknowledge the consequences of ignoring or failing to address racism. To raise this awareness, the United Nations declared March 21st a day to stop and take time to do something about racial discrimination. The goal was to help us as a society to become more aware and vigilant, to always check our own inclinations to be biased, and to learn treat our neighbour as we would like to be treated. We hope that March 21st may serve as a special reminder to stay vigilant and recognize that discrimination may also lead to bullying, isolation, and other forms of oppression.
Further, a well-kept secret that many may not know is that the then 40’s, 50’s, 60’s white powerful South African regime that brought apartheid came to study how Canada was dealing with the First Peoples of Canada. They saw how Canada created reservations and in South Africa they proceeded to try to establish “reservation-like” Bantustans where about 80% of black South Africa’s population was forcibly moved to 13% of the most barren parts of the country.
Will we allow history to teach us anything?
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws. Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
We hope that each of us will take a moment on Saturday, March 21, 2015, to do something to help end racial discrimination.
Here are a few things we can do to make a difference:
– Listen when people talk about every day racism and discrimination
– Educate ourselves
– Challenge ourselves and our friends, families, and coworkers to think critically about racism in society, and in our own behaviours
– Questions our own biases
– Speak up if we hear or see something that could be racial discrimination
– Avoid cultural appropriation
– Seek out culturally diverse experiences
– Approach people of all races and ethnicities with respect and openness
– Teach the children in our lives respect for difference cultures
We have the power to be change agents and together, both individually and collectively, we can make a difference where we are. Thank you,
Community Program Supervisor – South Edmonton
Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters
Boy & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters, believes in inclusion and belonging for all children, regardless of their economic, cultural, and social backgrounds. Every child deserves to have access to resources, safe places, positive relationships and opportunities that enable them to achieve their full potential. To learn more about our mentoring or club programs or our beliefs, click the respective link.