Want to Combat Racial Discrimination? Learn from Historical Tragedies


Human Wrongs Watch

“Knowledge of history and memory of past crimes can allow us to build a future of peace, providing an antidote to hatred and prejudice,” said Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO marking the International Coalition of Cities against Racism on 21 March 2015.*

Source: UNESCO

Source: UNESCO

“It is in this spirit that International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is dedicated this year to the theme of “Learning from historical tragedies to combat racial discrimination today.”

UNESCO has been working tirelessly for many years to disseminate teaching of the history of slavery and the slave trade, recognized as a crime against humanity in 2001, she said.

“It is essential to deconstruct stereotypes and prejudices that have justified the exploitation of human beings by other human beings and which still persist today, based on ignorance and hatred in various forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia and the rejection of others.”

Mourners at a funeral ceremony in Cape Province for those who were killed by the South African police at Langa Township in Uitenhage (1985). UN Photo

Mourners at a funeral ceremony in Cape Province for those who were killed by the South African police at Langa Township in Uitenhage (1985). UN Photo

By conducting educational and cultural programmes, such as the Slave Route Project and the General History of Africa, and by preserving documentary heritage through the Memory of the World Programme, our conviction is that, while the crimes mobilized several nations, the memory of those crimes can now, in a reverse action, bring countries together and highlight the irreversible connections that have been created between peoples, Bokova added.

“This message is essential today, to help people to live together in our multicultural societies and this is precisely the message of the International Decade for People of African Descent.”

Bokova added that our first duty is to remember that past tragedies also shed light on the courage and determination of those who have advanced human dignity by fighting against oppression until slavery was abolished. We are all eternally indebted and this resolve must guide the fight against modern forms of slavery, oppression and discrimination.

“The initiatives of the International Coalition of Cities against Racism show that significant progress is possible in the fight against racism and discrimination through the adoption of more effective local anti-discrimination policies.”

At a time when the United Nations are inaugurating the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, transmitting this history remains a compass to guide us towards the future to build peace in the minds of men and women, she said.

“There is no more powerful driving force for dignity and freedom. This is the meaning of the words of Toussaint Louverture, leader of the victorious slave revolt in Haiti in 1791: “I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man.” (*Source: UNESCO).

Read also:

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‘People of African Descent Still Face Racism, Stigma in Every Country, Region and Continent’

On Human Rights Day, UN Launches in Harlem a World Decade for People of African Descent

World Day to Abolish Slavery: 21 Million Women, Men and Children Trapped Worldwide

More Respect, Less Criminalization for Migrant Workers, UN Human Rights Expert Urges

‘US should respond to public demands for greater police accountability – United Nations

UN Human Rights Chief ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over ‘Disproportionate’ Killings of African-Americans by US Police

Eric Garner, Michael Brown Cases Spark ‘Legitimate Concerns’ About US Policing – UN Rights Experts

Washington DC Police ‘Mishandle’ Sexual Assault Cases

Canada: Violence, Sexual Assault By Police Officers against Indigenous Women – Report

2015 Human Wrongs Watch

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