The United Nations has declared 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. December 10th marked the kickoff day for this decade dedicated to the eradication of the widespread racism and discrimination that is deeply ingrained in society and continues to negatively affect people of African descent worldwide. The resolution for the decade was accepted by the General Assembly of the UN in December of 2013, with the theme “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development”. The decade will focus on calls for governments around the world to implement anti-discrimination laws to end rampant racial profiling and offering equal protection under the law, as well as focusing on health, education, economic development, and employment disparities that people of African descent continue to experience around the globe, as well as revisiting policies and laws that have had negative effects for people of African descent.
President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Sam Kutesa, proclaimed during the kickoff that “The Decade will allow us to explore the challenges faced by people of African descent due to pervasive racism and racial discrimination ingrained in our society today.” Kutesa also spoke on the topics of justice and development, noting the discrimination Africans and the diaspora face when pursuing legal recompense when they are often victims of violence and crime, the correlation between poverty and racism, and the marginalization of people of African descent despite their contributions to society. The event took place at the Schomburg center, which Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson pronounced as “a great partner with us in the UN for a long time, organizing exhibits on ending racial discrimination and remembering also the shame of the transatlantic slave trade…. It’s a towering presence, filled with art and information about African Americans, the African diaspora and African experiences.” Joined by ambassadors, dignitaries, staff, and students, the kickoff event featured speakers and performances by African musicians.
In the midst of existing racial tension and discrimination being pushed to the forefront of the conversations taking place in America today, strivers for racial equality not only in the United States but all over the world can cheer for this historic achievement for the full liberation and betterment of lives for Africans and the diaspora. Justifications for the inferior treatment of black people in the United States are fiercely and widely held, ranging from blatant racism to color-blind rhetoric that perpetuates the pervasiveness of racism by ignoring its existence. Though 56% of blacks in America believe there is significant discrimination against black people, only 16% of whites agree, and a majority believe that whites are just as likely if not more likely than blacks to be discriminated against. With the emergence of widespread protests on police brutality disproportionately targeting black lives, which has been the second longest American Civil Rights protest since the Montgomery Boy Boycott of 1955, these vast differences of how African-Americans and white Americans experience life in the U.S. can no longer be ignored. To add some perspective, beginning from when the first ship of African captives hit American soil in 1619, there has been over 200 years of slavery. Ingraining the idea that Africans were less than animals and asserting biological racism was essential to justifying their enslavement. Afterward, roughly 100 years of Jim Crow were used to terrorize blacks, teaching them that there were no rights they had that whites had to respect, and they were still lesser beings. The presumed “post-racial” period of America has been going on for the past 50 years: a relatively short period of time still filled with (but routinely glossed over) housing discrimination, racial profiling, micro-aggressions, and continued employment, health, and education discrimination.
Over 400 years of deeply ingrained racism has not and cannot disappear so quickly; the change needed in society requires continued and conscious efforts of anti-racism ideology to combat the systemic racism our country was built on. The Decade for People of African Descent may not be a long enough period of time to completely eradicate discrimination around the world, but it is a huge step forward and a shining light of hope for the years ahead.
Diouf, Sylviane A. “A Decade for People of African Descent.” A Decade for People of African Descent. New York Public Library, 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.
“Spotlighting Racism, Stigma, UN Launches International Decade of People of African Descent.” UN News Center. United Nations 2014, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.
Blake, John. “The New Threat: ‘Racism without Racists'” CNN. Cable News Network, 27 Nov. 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.