In case you thought Black History Month wasn’t long enough, you’d better not blink. We currently have 24 hours officially dedicated to the fight to eliminate racism. Today marks the worldwide annual observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with activities led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This date commemorates March 21, 1960 when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". In 1966, the U.N. General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to remind the international community of the dire consequences of racism and our obligation to combat racial discrimination. This year’s theme is: “Racism and Discrimination: Obstacles to Development.” According to the U.N., “Development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process that aims at constantly improving the well-being of the entire population on the basis of everyone’s active, free and meaningful participation and the fair distribution of the available resources. Racism and other forms of discrimination are not only human rights violations but also major obstacles to achieving development.” The U.N got that right. Now if only the developers could just get on board. Imagine a world where development was truly based on the standards of full inclusion and fairness. Close to home, imagine how different, say, the Gulf Coast might look today if all reconstruction-related development were driven by such standards. The vibrancy of the old New Orleans would be a mere glimmer of its flourishing future. It’s definitely a lofty goal and image. We’ll certainly need more than a single official day designated to spotlight discriminatory development and highlight equitable alternatives. But perhaps it can serve as a spark for us to hold onto a different kind of vision. In the meantime, you’d better not blink.
Happy International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination!!
By Terry Keleher Mar 21, 2007