Among the deleterious consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the harsh glare thrown on inequality, from who is most vulnerable to contracting and dying from the disease to whose economic fortunes suffer because of lost employment. Last summer’s Black Lives Matter marches and this past week’s spotlight on soaring anti-Asian hate has shown once again that racial discrimination is as deadly as a virus.
The theme for the day is “Youth Standing Up Against Racism,” as young people have increasingly demanded their voices be heard as they call for a world and a future – one free of racism and discrimination, full of tolerance and equality – they want and deserve. And one we will all benefit from. They understand the force that results when social consciousness meets collective action, whether that movement for racial justice takes place on the streets or on social media. One doesn’t have to march or post to take part, but commit to standing up to bigotry when we witness it. The day is marked on 21 March, when police in Sharpeville, South Africa shot dead 69 people at an anti-apartheid demonstration in 1960.
A UNFPA goal is that every young person’s potential is fulfilled. That can only be achieved when everyone is considered equal and can access the same opportunities.
Despite the steady beat of the headlines, racism is no recent phenomenon, but the fight toward its eradication goes on today and every day. It must.