Neha Jayaram, Communications and Marketing Specialist
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21, the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid "pass laws" in 1960.
In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination, beginning on 21 March, would be organized annually in all Member States.
The apartheid system in South Africa has since been dismantled, racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has been built. When compared with the world 200 years ago, we seem to have embraced a global cultural of acceptance and equality.
Against the alarming rise of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, the UN Human Rights Office launched its #FightRacism campaign to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination.
The spread of the recent coronavirus, 2019-nCov, has brought a particularly disturbing aspect of human behaviour to the fore. Fear and anxiety about COVID-19 has led to social stigma toward people, places, or things. For example, stigma and discrimination occurs when people associate COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease.
According to the CDC, persons of Asian descent, people who have traveled and emergency responders and healthcare professionals maybe currently experiencing discrimination. This virus does not discriminate against race, age or gender. We are all at equal risk and should use this time to look out for ourselves and the people in our communities.
Stigma can also occur after a person has been released from COVID-19 quarantine even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others. Stigma weakens society as a whole by creating fear or anger towards other people.
Stigmatized groups may be subjected to:
- Social avoidance or rejection
- Denials of healthcare, education, housing or employment
- Physical violence.
Being subject to discrimination or stigma affects the emotional and mental health of a person, and consequently the community they live in. Especially in a time like this, we have a better chance of slowing down the spread of this disease by supporting our community as a whole, not through a division based on fear.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their communities. Any doctrine, thought, belief or speech that dictates any racial superiority is morally condemnable and socially dangerous.
Here at SCHC 3 of our core values are inclusiveness, respect and equity. We recognize and respect that our Scarborough community has members of diverse backgrounds and cultures. All members of our community deserve compassion, dignity and empathy. To achieve this and build the trust of our community, we work on a foundation of non - judgmental respect and inclusivity.
It is important to remember that people – including those of Asian descent – who do not live in or have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, or have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, are not at greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than anyone else.
Let us use social media wisely, sharing accurate information from reputable and trusted sources, reaching out to those who are isolated or quarantined and stand up against discriminatory statements. This is an opportunity to teach our children more about this virus and ensure they don’t develop stigmas or biases.
Amidst all the chaos and panic, let us remind ourselves today that we need to support each other, reach out to those who are vulnerable and stand up against those who seek to discriminate against members of our communities.