One Global Fight! Celebrating World Day Against Racism

On March 21st, 1960, in the black township of Sharpeville, located south of Johannesburg, police of the apartheid regime, opened fired and killed 69 people at the peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws”. These pass laws required Black South Africans to carry passport within their own country to be allowed to move, work, and live at all times. Reports of the massacre helped focus international criticism of the apartheid cruel policies in South Africa

Following the defeat and dismantling of apartheid, South Africa President Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville the site on which on December 10, 1996, he signed into law the country new democratic Constitution of a free South Africa.

It is fitting that the UN chosen March 21st to mark the International Day of Racial Discrimination and events all over the world are held to remember, commemorate the day, as well as get together to educate and mobilize people against racism as no country is free of racism and tacking requires a global effort.

I was lucky enough to join more than 1,500 people in my new home of Barcelona Spain, the hometown of my wife and our new home after my retirement from General Mills , on the annual event “Dia Internacional Contra el Racisme“ (Catalan for International Day against Racism ) held at the 62 Para-lel theater for an event pack with writers , dancers, singers , comedians along  local and global speakers to share ideas, learnings, wins and struggles on the fight against racism but also to enjoy our common humanity.

The event was sponsored by the office against discrimination of the City of Barcelona in partnership with local organizations with the goal of making this great city free of discrimination and racism #BCNANTIRACISTA .

I was impressed by the speakers’ personal stories and ideas about finding Common Projects that can be replicated in cities through the world as a way to advance the fight against racism, and I was moved by the films on the Holocaust against the Jewish and Gypsy people (how many of you dear readers know that 1 million gypsies   were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis?).  in Europe, the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa and more recent events such as the killing of George Floyd in US, all told thru films, poems, comedy, music and dance through the event. It came through the event that using Culture again racism is powerful as Culture serves both as content and containment against racism . It is no accident that racism and anti-democrats all over the world looked to ban books and music as one of their tools to preserve the racism and discriminatory systems (lately cases of book banning are US states like Texas and Florida are a reminder of this tactic).

Barcelona a world class city, a city proud of his diversity recognizes that still there is work to be done  to get rid of racism and discrimination. A 2022 Survey conducted by the Institute of regional and Metropolitan studies (IERMB) of Barcelona showed that 16% of the population suffer some kind of discrimination that year and that 3,4% of the persons surveyed described that the discrimination was due to the color of their skin of ethnic origin and more recently racist chats were yelled  at the Barcelona Nou Camp stadium against the Vinicius Jr a black Brazilian player from the opposite team .The Spanish Football  league and the authorities have denounced the club and are looking for the fans to penalized those fans (and even the club) by using existing laws against racism in the Spanish Judicial system.

To Barcelona’s credit, the city of Barcelona has developed a 4-year plan to bring awareness and educate their citizens about the structure and systemic structure of racism along with laws and mechanisms to prevent racism and guarantee the respect for human rights to both provide tools to prevent racism but to act in cases of discrimination and racism.  This is an example that change could and should also be driven from within the government structure together with their citizens.

I was able to connect with some of the event’s organizers to learn about their projects along with sharing with them the work of ARCC. Hope some collaborative projects come as a result of those contacts in the future.

-ARCC Board Member, Carlos Caballero