Poetry to inspire the fight against racism

Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world.

Visual for the UN Human Rights Fight Racism campaign @ OHCHR

From denying individuals the basic principles of equality and non-discrimination to fuelling the ethnic hatred that has led to genocide, intolerance and racism destroy lives and entire communities.

In the past decades, populist and nationalist ideologies have reappeared and racist extremist movements based on those ideologies have spread in various parts of the world. In their wake, they fuel racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, often targeting migrants and refugees as well as people of African descent.

That populist discourse is often that of “real” citizens, “nationalists,” “foreigners,” “us and them.” They focus on a so-called national and racial “purity,” and depict minorities, foreigners, migrants and asylum seekers as invaders. That speech can become virulent and viral in the internet age.

For the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Human Rights, through its #FightRacism campaign, wishes to inspire. Every time and everywhere manifestations of racism, or racial discrimination or intolerance happen, all of us must stand up to promote respect, compassion and equality for all.

Renowned poets and lyricists have already joined the campaign. The African-American poet and activist, Audre Lorde, reminds us that, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate our differences.”

Authors Tahar Ben Jelloun and Paulo Coelho; entertainers El Chojin, Emicida and Roben X; all have lent their pens and with their own words echoed our rallying cry.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, says that, “You can care about your country and still care about the world. You can care about your community, and your family, and respect the diversity of others.” But she cautions, “To promote one's own rights at the expense of others' is detrimental to all of society.”

The fundamental international standard for equality and non-discrimination is set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reaffirms that, “Everyone is entitled to all human rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.

Let all these words resound. Get inspired, find your inner poet and fight racism.

15 March 2019

See also