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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination logo, orange palm print and black lettering to white background

Thursday 21 March is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". The General Assembly of the UN proclaimed the day in 1966, and UNESCO director-general Ms Audrey Azoulay calls for “us all to stand together as Member States, civil society organizations and citizens to eliminate racial discrimination, and build more sustainable societies.

In the 50 years since the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination came into force in 1969, racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and there is an international framework for fighting racism. However, racial and ethnic discrimination still occur on a daily basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world. Racism and intolerance can take various forms — from denying individuals the basic principles of equality to fuelling ethnic hatred that may lead to genocide — all of which can destroy lives and fracture communities.

The theme for 2019 is “Mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies”. This is particularly poignant given the recent tragic events in Christchurch, New Zealand where our global Muslim community were targeted based on religious belief, but links were again made to immigration and race. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved and the global Muslim community. The offensive rhetoric from many places around immigrants and nationalism has no place at the University of Reading.

Whilst we are clear that racial discrimination and racism is #NeverOK at the University of Reading, we know we could do more to advance race equality in our own organisation. In November 2018 we launched our Race Equality Action Plan, which you can read more about on our Diversity web pages. Our new Race Equality Action Team (RE-Act) are busy identifying which parts of the action plan to take forward over the next few months.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I ask you to reflect on what you could do to move us towards racial equality. That could be reflecting on what race, including whiteness, means to you, or thinking about the ethnicity attainment gaps and ways your teaching could  address this, or resolving to call out poor behaviour if you see it.

If you would like to join the Cultural Diversity Group – a staff network for anyone interested in how Race and ethnicity affect the experience of staff and students at Reading, please email diversity@reading.ac.uk and we will add you to mailing list.

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