Today is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. March 21 was marked for the world to focus on conflict caused by racism because it is the anniversary of the day in 1960 when dozens of peaceful apartheid protestors were killed by police officers in a South African town.
United Nations officials hope that this day will inspire the world to eliminate racism. Several UN officials spoke today about the dangers of racism and “urged the international community to address grievances before they explode into catastrophic conflict.”
“Racism undermines peace, security, justice and social progress,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “It is a violation of human rights that tears at individuals and rips apart the social fabric.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also spoke in support of International Day. Pillay referenced a survey regarding race and violence in her statement that showed 55 percent of violent conflicts between 2007 and 2009 had violations of minority rights or ethnic tensions at their core.
Ironically, just today, Mississippi was in the spotlight for such a conflict. A white Mississippi man was sentenced to life in prison for the 2011 murder of an African-American man. According to authorities, Deryl Dedmon allegedly beat James Craig Anderson while yelling “white power” and then ran him over with his truck, leaving him to die. Before sentencing, the U.S. Justice Department had been looking into the case as a possible hate crime; and Morris Dees, chief trial counsel for the law center said, “James Anderson lost his life for no other reason than the color of his skin."
Mississippi has a long, difficult past of violent conflicts due to racial tension and is still fighting negative stereotyping regarding racism. Ole Miss has obviously been a large part of the conflicts, but the university has since taken many steps to end racial inequality and make every person of every background feel welcome. Still, race is considered a hot topic and race relations are often discussed. International Day strives to inspire civilized discussions about discrimination and make sure that we promote the ideal of the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
You can read more about International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination here, and you can also contribute to the discussion of race relations and conflict by participating in a survey created by the Journalism 500 class here.