International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
On October 26, 1966, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 2142 (XXI) designating March 21st as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day was chosen because, in 1960, 69 peaceful protesters were killed by police in Sharpeville, South Africa, while demonstrating against the apartheid “pass laws”. By establishing this day of commemoration, the General Assembly urged the global community to intensify its efforts to eradicate all types of racial discrimination, especially as it pertains to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
A Brief Account of the Origin and Development of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Racism has a long history in America, deeply connected to slavery and the notion of race. While the word “race” has been used to identify people since the early 1500s, today it often refers to the social concepts created by groups to either grant or deny certain privileges. In the past, race was used as a justification for forced labor and oppression. Slavery can be traced back centuries and was considered acceptable for various reasons in ancient times.
The term “white” originally referred to the exclusive privilege of elite English women in the 1550s to 1600s. However, by 1613, the English adopted the term while opposing East Indians for colonial purposes. African American slavery was established in the early 1600s when the first Africans were captured and brought to the American colonies for enslaved labor. Until 1662, enslavement status did not automatically apply to African lineage as a lifetime status. However, Virginia enacted the law of hereditary slavery in 1662, which changed this by transferring the status of children from their mother’s legal status to automatically become slaves. By the 19th century, racism had spread globally, with African Americans being dubbed as inferior beings, while whites were considered superior.
The roots of racism can be seen in the noble eugenics movement of the 1990s, which aimed to discourage reproduction by people with undesirable traits or defects. This ideology of racial superiority, also known as “Aryanism,” considered the archaic Indo-European language speakers as superior and enforced the belief of white supremacy. Sadly, this ideology persists today.