The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that we all have the right to a life free from discrimination and degrading treatment.
Unfortunately, the history of the world has seen too many crimes of hate and discrimination. But this doesn’t have to be the reality we live with. From the civil rights movement in the USA in the 1960s, to the fall of apartheid in South Africa, many people have come together to fight racism and discrimination, and they have achieved remarkable things.
But the work is far from finished and we all have a role to play. There are things we can do as individuals, but we can also call on our decision makers to put in place policies and programmes to bring lasting change to our communities.
1. Listen and educate yourself
Pay attention to the voices of people who experience racism every day – listen to friends, classmates, neighbours, and community leaders.
There are also a lot of articles, books, documentaries, films and podcasts on issues of racism, discrimination and privilege. Listen to what the people in them have to say. Understand and confront your own privilege. Be prepared to feel uncomfortable at times. Many of us absorb biases and prejudices at an early age, so they are not easy to unlearn.
2. Raise awareness
Share the resources that you have found useful with your community to help them learn how they can play a role in ending racism and discrimination. If you have younger siblings or family members, set a good example for them. Try to look for games or books that can help them learn that we all have a right to dignity and safety - there are lots online.
3. Challenge everyday discrimination and racism
Racism and discrimination happen around us all the time. Often it is in the form of jokes, stereotypes or insensitive comments and questions from our friends, family members or colleagues. If you witness a friend or family member saying racist or discriminatory things, you should talk to them, if you feel safe to do so. Approach them privately first – in person or via direct message.
They are more likely to be receptive if they don’t feel publicly embarrassed. Point out to them that what they are saying is racist or discriminatory and remind them that everyone has the right to dignity and that in many countries it is against the law to discriminate against a person because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Encourage them to learn more about the historical context of racial prejudice and discrimination, and share resources that you have found helpful.
If you see someone being bullied or harassed, intervene if it is safe to do so.
4. Report racist or discriminatory content online
Many social media platforms want their platforms to be safe and empowering for people of all backgrounds. If you see content that you think violates their guidelines, report it to the platform.
If you see content in a newspaper or other traditional media that reflects prejudice, leave a comment or send a letter to the editor to let others know that intolerant remarks are unkind and uncalled for.
5. Is your school or university against racism and discrimination?
Schools and universities should be safe places for children and young people of all races and ethnicities. Find out whether your school or university has a policy on non-discrimination and racism, safe ways to report incidents, support services, and programmes or initiatives to promote tolerance, diversity and inclusion. If not, work with other students and school/university management to start a discussion and identify ways in which your place of learning can become a safer and more empowering environment for all students.
If you have other suggestions, share them in the comments below or submit a blog or spark.
Extra actions for young storytellers
🎤 Share your story
It is important that the stories and experiences of people who face racism and discrimination are told. At the same time, we understand this can be very difficult and painful. If it feels safe and empowering, tell your story and share your experiences.
📣 Amplify the voices of people who experience discrimination and racism
Rather than speaking for people, use your platforms to amplify the voices of people who experience discrimination and racism directly.
✍️ Telling someone else’s story
If you are telling the story of someone who comes from a very different background to you based on their race or ethnicity avoid using words or phrases that are stereotypical or insensitive. Think about how you are portraying the person – are you presenting them as a full human being with a range of interests and experiences? Make sure you do your research beforehand and think about the images you use – do they treat someone with dignity and respect, or do they perpetuate stereotypes? Would you like to be portrayed in this way?
This also applies to telling the stories of people who have different experiences form you based on their gender identity, religion, socioeconomic group, migration status or disability.