This year marks the 20th anniversary since the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances took place in Durban. The gathering created a platform where thought leaders from around the world could engage on the global challenges of racism with the intention of adopting a programme of action that would address these challenges. Decades later, racism has not waned but has taken different and perhaps more extreme and violent forms. It has also found support and expression from political office in many countries across the world. In short, racism has moved from the shadows to the bright lights of political and economic boardrooms. This now requires an equivalent global response.
The starting point for this should be global activations needed in support of the UN Anti-Racism Day on March 20.
On Saturday, March 13, 2021, the Anti-Racism Network South Africa (ARNSA) hosted the launch of its annual Anti-Racism Week campaign in Sharpeville near Vereeniging. The action week, which starts on March 14 -21, encourages all sectors of society including the international community to find ways of mobilising against racism and racial inequalities. ARNSA appeals to the public to help highlight the scourge of racism around the world by showing support for or by initiating anti-racism campaigns under the theme #UniteAgainstRacism.
This year, the campaigns around Anti-Racism Week will tackle issues of racism in sports, in the media and schools.
“Kicking off Anti-Racism Week, the network will host a lecture interrogating the global challenge of racism and responses required of us as society. Having teamed up with UK’s Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC), who have been conducting education sessions on the values of anti-racism. The week will see a dialogue on how we can effectively use sport as a tool for tackling racism”, said Busisiwe Nkosi the Convenor for Anti-Racism Week.
“This is an important development in relation to building strong links in the global fight against racism.”
A panel discussion looking at racism and the role of the media will be one of the highlights of Anti-Racism Week. “The media has a critical role to play in promoting transformation and presenting the anti-racism agenda. How they cover and tell stories, the voices they choose to elevate and their own skill of challenging their own biases are central to getting the stories right”, said Caryn Abrahams, a senior lecture at the University of Witwatersrand and Board member at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
Abrahams will be part of an online discussion on racism and the media alongside eNCA’s Managing Editor John Bailey and Media Freedom Chair at the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) Mary Papayya.
School assemblies will take a different approach this year, where some will take place online. “In the history of Anti-Racism Week, we have found that the impact of the school assemblies has been immeasurable. The schools that have opened their doors to us have enabled the network to entrench anti-racism education through our programme. In adherence to lockdown regulations we will host some of these interactive school assemblies to a limited audience and where technology allows, we will host them online with just as much energy”, Nkosi said.
The Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela Foundations established the Anti-Racism Network South Africa (ARNSA) in 2015. Its secretariat today also includes the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), and the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy (CANRAD).
March 20 is UN Anti-Racism Day which is a national day of action against racism. March 21, which is when Anti-Racism Week comes to an end is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Nationally, the day is also marked as Human Rights Day which is linked with the events of Sharpeville.
Individuals and organisations wishing to get involved in Anti-Racism Week can do so by contacting the Convenor on email@example.com.
“The week provides us as the network with an opportunity to reiterate the importance of diversity training and literacy around racism across all sectors and this will be a key feature throughout the programme. We look forward to working with institutions and business as we have done in the past with companies such as retail clothing group H&M”, said Busisiwe.
Speaking about the theme, Busisiwe urged institutions and organisations to adopt measures that promote racial equality, tolerance and condemn anti-racist behaviour and attitudes.
Racism will not end itself, it requires constant work over decades to undo its structures, systems, culture and behaviours that give it life and ability to mutate. This is the work that anti-racists need to build on after Anti-Racism Week in SA and across the world.