March 20 was the first day of spring – a day for renewal and new life. We were fortunate, too, that in Toronto this day also saw sunshine and warmer temperatures. This turn to milder weather reinforced a sense of hope for many of us.
This weekend was also the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racism, which aims to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality, and anti-discrimination. Observed annually on March 21, this day calls on all of us to stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes.
The notion of race is a social construct, created by humans to classify. Facing History and Ourselves, an organization that uses lessons from the past to teach people to choose equity and justice, explains the social construction of race. “Contrary to the beliefs of many people, past and present, race has never been scientifically proven to be a significant genetic or biological difference in humans. The concept of race was in fact invented by society to fulfill its need to justify disparities in power and status among different groups. The lack of scientific evidence about race undermines the very concept of the superiority of some ‘races’ and the inferiority of other ‘races’.”
Racism continues to exist. This past week I cannot help thinking, in particular, about our Asian community members who while often having been the recipients of racist comments, are now experiencing and witnessing a significant increase in discriminatory behaviour. Dr. Tamara Miller, historian and parent, wrote an opinion piece for CBC News entitled, Our Instinct As Parents is to Protect Our Children, How Can I Guard Them Against Racism?. As the white parent of two Chinese children, she says: “Our instinct as parents is to protect our children. I can give my kids masks, remind them to wash their hands, and take them for COVID-19 vaccinations. But how do I vaccinate them against the hate and scarring that results when they see people who look like them being targeted for their ethnicity?”
The theme and hashtag for this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racism is “Youth standing up against racism” and #FightRacism. While I believe in – and have experienced – youth being the drivers for a much better society, it will take all of us to enact change. It is imperative that we all take the time to educate ourselves, and to stand up and speak out against discrimination.
March 21 can also be a day for hope, growth, and renewed commitment. While spring comes to us, we must work to #FightRacism.