Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”– Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
How many lives have been extinguished by the pandemic of racism?
Like a biological virus, racism is spread from person to person by what people teach and say to their family members and friends. It is spread by ignorance and nurtured by hatred and indifference.
Unlike a biological virus, racism immediately affects everyone who is targeted and leaves indelible lifelong wounds.
Racism does not only become lethal in the hands of those who inhabit the halls of power and privilege; racism resides throughout society. The world has been built on inequality, xenophobia, and oppression. Racism has been institutionalized and systematized. The system of exclusive nation-states has further exacerbated structural violence and cycles of discrimination. The foundations that humans have used to construct our world are unequal and unstable. The world that is our home is failing much of its inhabitants. The entire house will fall if we do not return to the drawing board to design and build an inclusive and just foundation.
What is the antidote to racism?
If we want to have a world that works for everyone, we need to teach children from infancy not only the principles but also the practices of inclusion, empathy, listening, sharing, respect, equality, and justice. These lessons must not end when youth ends; adults must continually educate themselves and be cognizant of how their words and actions impact those around them.
Stopping racism requires a holistic approach. Racism must be recognized and eliminated from every aspect of society. Stopping racism requires us to question how we are running our world. Is our competitive economic and political system that pits human against human, group against group, ethical? How we govern ourselves, or neglect to govern our world, inordinately affects people due to their race and ethnicity.
The hyper-nationalistic and corporate control of human and natural resources embeds racism in the wheels of production, consumption, and day-to-day existence. We are taught to see our fellow humans as “others” against whom we must compete, and oftentimes fight, for supremacy. Rarely are we taught, let alone encouraged to practice, how to be allies of one another, rather than competitors.
A holistic approach to stopping racism takes into account the health of humanity and the earth. It will ensure that our rights and duties are universally respected. And it will seek equality and justice in all aspects of human-to-human interaction, as well as human-to-earth interaction.
- Education must be just.
- Societal opportunities and outcomes must be just.
- Economics must be just.
- Politics must be just.
- Governmental representation must be just.
- Laws, their enforcement, and their adjudication must be just.
The laws that we create help determine how we will interact with one another. Racism and discrimination are outlawed in many national and international codes of conduct. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons (UNDRIP) affirm the principles of equality and justice.
The Preamble and Articles 1, 2 and 26 of the UDHR affirm everyone’s equality and right to be free from racism. Article 2 specifically states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
The Preamble and Articles 8 and 46 of the UNDRIP reiterate the antidiscrimination principles of the UDHR. The Preamble states “that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.” Article 8(2)(e) specifically states, “States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination.”
The problem is not the lack of laws against racism, it is how and whether those laws are implemented. When the institutions of society and government do not fairly represent everyone in the community, then the laws will not be implemented fairly, or at all. Laws, in the end, will never be enough to stop racism. We need to protest for change, listen and be allies for change, learn and educate for change, vote for change, and run for office for change.
We need to run on a platform of building an ethical and inclusive social and governmental system for the whole world. This means creating a just system and an equitable justice system, one that does not treat some people as lesser, and others as better, or above the law.
To have a peaceful, free and sustainable world, it must be a just world. As citizens of the world, we are all directly responsible for rooting out injustice anywhere and for seeking justice for everyone, everywhere.
Black lives matter.