Toronto – March 19, 2014 – The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is celebrated annually on March 21 to commemorate the victims of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa and to denounce racism globally. The victims of the Sharpeville massacre were merely protesting the Apartheid-era law that required black South Africans to carry passes, which restricted their movement throughout the country. The callous brutality shown in taking the lives of so many children and parents was a horrible demonstration of the hatred that racism can inspire, and serves as a reminder of why racism must be eliminated.
While the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was born from the blood of black South Africans defending themselves against the policies of Apartheid South Africa, we know that racism still thrives everywhere in a variety of overt and subtle ways.
For instance, despite the fact that 20 percent of Canada's population is racialized, it is nevertheless common for Canadians to steer away from the topic of race and exclusion, and this failure to ignore biases in our attitudes and daily decisions does little to help us achieve social justice for racialized citizens.
We see racial discrimination at work in particular. Whether it be the lack of diversity and inclusion in various public, private, and non-profit organizations, or workplace bullying that is allowed to persist unchecked, racism continues to stain our workplaces with its unsightly mark.
Canadians must therefore engage in a frank discussion of how race has operated, and continues to operate, as a steadfast barrier to full inclusion in Canadian institutions. While these discussions will undoubtedly be difficult for some, a more honest and courageous conversation will be essential to addressing the inequality caused by racist beliefs and actions.
On March 21, let us not only remember the atrocity of Sharpeville, but also resolve to challenge and eliminate the subtle and overt forms of racism that are woven into the fabric of Canadian society.
Paul R. Meinema