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Racism: A Global Threat to Peace and Democracy

Justine King joins a global panel hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 21st March, the day now observed annually, proclaimed by the United Nations after 69 people were killed by police in Sharpeville, South Africa as they protested peacefully against the laws of apartheid in 1960. Racist laws and practices have since been abolished in many countries, there is now an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. But the need for laws, organisations and charities across the world to continue to prosecute, drive equality and provide education is still imperative.

An online event hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has brought together the knowledge and expertise of the following individuals to discuss ‘Racism; A global threat to peace and democracy’.

Neeshan Balton – Moderator

Justine King – Show Racism the Red Card

Kirsten Bokenkamp – Global Project against Hate and Extremism

Abigail Noko – United Nations Officer of High Commissioner

Breitner Tavares – University of Brasilia

We hope many of you were able to join the discussion and listen to the perspectives from around the world. The topics covered many different aspects but with one common theme – fear. The feelings of fear and upset caused by the global economic crisis are exploited by radical extremists to cause division and spread messages of hate.

Justine King gave her perspective of both the positive and negative situation that our younger generation find themselves in;

“Broadly speaking they are free thinkers, open minded to people’s differences, their beliefs, appearances and opinions, but they are also exposed and vulnerable to sophisticated and diversifying groups looking to essentially groom our younger generation. We remember and recognise the stereo typical young, angry male presenting a furious angry message, that message is now presented in a variety of appearances, in the form of supposed peers aligning themselves with causes such as the rights of women of Islam. It is difficult to recognise even by young tech savvy generations.”

All four panellists agreed that the advent of technology and the more sophisticated ways of interacting via social media have also allowed a more rapid spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories. Long gone are the days of badly spelt and scrawled posters, many of those spreading hate are extremely computer literate and have become skilled in using this medium in order to spread their views to a young vulnerable audience, Andrew Tate for instance.

This worldwide audience, and younger more tech aware protagonists have allowed conspiracy theories to spread rapidly, such as the Great Replacement Theory which was spoken about by several on the panel. This racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy, born in Europe but gaining popularity throughout the globe, is that policies and practice are being carried out on all levels whereby the white race is being deliberately ‘replaced’ in society via immigration, interracial relationships and promotion of diversity. The claim being the end result will be the eventual extinction of the white race by Jewish people and people of colour.

This theory has gained popularity in the last 10 years, and many of the mass shootings across the globe from Christchurch, NZ to countless US shootings have perpetrators who have made reference to it. It is a conspiracy which is supported by many of the leading Far Right groups, as well as being a popular topic of conversation on right wing news channels here and abroad, spreading that hate ever further.

To think more critically about what we see and hear via the media was mentioned as being so important in the fight against racism, whether that be politically distortion as mentioned by Abigail Noko and Brietner Tavares, or as Kirsten Bokenkamp pointed out, how it is also our responsibility to hold tech and social media companies accountable for their part in allowing hate to spread through their platforms. It is ever important that we hold humanity above profit.

How do we move forward?  – Is the whole picture one of doom and despondence, absolutely not! The vast majority of the population are caring, empathetic, and tolerant. Given the chance we have seen the UK population open their homes to the Ukrainian people. We are constantly moved by the words of wisdom we hear from children in the classrooms, but our message is that individuals must be part of the solution and play their part.

The main messages given by the end of the event, were those of education and allyship. That education about racism, and ways to stand up against discrimination are key. Whether that be of our adult peers, or of that next generation of leaders presently in our school system. And the importance of doing this together – for support, and for strength. All the panellists were in final agreement on the importance of solidarity and of coming together both nationally and globally in order to influence together. We are indeed stronger together.

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