More than just Harmony Day – it’s the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination

critical-classroom-daysThe 21st of March is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations states:

Each year we mark this Day on the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. We can never forget the 69 unarmed and peaceful demonstrators who were killed by South African police as they protested the country’s unjust apartheid laws. Apartheid has long since been dismantled and there have been other important advances in the struggle against racism. These include treaties and declarations, the development of an international framework to combat racism, and national protection systems by numerous States. Despite much progress, racism remains a pervasive menace to individuals and ethnic and religious groups worldwide. It is a threat to stability and a grave violation of human rights. We must join forces to end racism, and sport can help reach this goal. On this International Day, let us recommit to ending racial discrimination and realizing our vision of justice, equality and freedom from fear for all.

It is my personal experience that Australian’s do not have a sophisticated understanding nor an ability to identify, talk about and/or critically reflect on their own racism – individual, institutional and systemic.

“I’m not racist” is frequently heard in the media as a defence. I would argue that probably all of us are racist to some degree or another. It doesn’t make it okay of course. But it does mean that when you attempt to defend yourself with “I’m not racist”, you look, sound and probably are being absurd, and un-productive. It takes a long time to grapple with one’s own racism – to be able to self-identify it, to challenge it. It’s an ongoing journey of reflection and personal challenge.

Here are some links that may assist you on your journey to better understanding racism –

  • All Together Now – is a not-for-profit foundation set up to directly challenge and combat racism in Australia
  • It Stops With me – campaign to challenge racism from the Human Rights Commission
  • Racism: No Way – education campaign to challenge racism from NSW Government, Department of Education and Training

It’s good to also share individual experiences of racism, so I’ve “mined” the Deadly Bloggers list for some personal reflections on racism –

Why not just celebrate Harmony Day?
The Australian government officially declared the 21st of March to be Harmony Day. I believe it’s important that we remind ourselves that this day is about the elimination of racial discrimination. In order to do this, we need to be explicit. Re-branding the day as ‘Harmony Day’ is just a watering down of the importance of the structural as well as individual impacts of racism on our communities and our nation.