Racism is the practice of discrimination, segregation, persecution or domination of people on the basis of supposed racial or ethnic difference. Historically, racism has emerged in relation to colonial histories of subjugation, slavery and economic exploitation in Europe and North America. Minorities and other vulnerable groups are often targets of racism. It remains a primary cause of human rights abuses- and a barrier to their solutions. It relates to other forms of subordination based on class, gender and caste.
The following are examples of campaigns against racism around the world:
The Rwandan government has violated the basic rights of tens of thousands of people by forcing them to abandon their homes in rural areas and move to makeshift dwellings in government-designated sites.
Read more in Rwanda: Rural Poor Forced to Leave their Homes (Human Rights Watch press release, June 11, 2001).
“The whole concept of amnesty has been difficult to swallow. Very difficult. And we had to understand that for South Africa to navigate this very difficult course, we would be teetering on the brink of civil war and bloodshed that could make Rwanda look like a Sunday school picnic.”
-Glenda Wildschutt, Psychiatric nurse, Member,Truth and Reconciliation Commission South Africa, 1999
Read more in Understanding and Combating the Different Forms of Racism (Social and Human Sciences Sector Newsletter, July – September, 2003).
Between June 16-20, 2003, the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, held its first international meeting dealing specifically with anti-Semitism, in Vienna, Austria. The meeting was held in response to the extraordinary rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, and a recognition by many OSCE members that past pledges to address anti-Semitism within the framework of the OSCEis antiracism and religious intolerance agenda had not been fulfilled.
Read more in Fire and Broken Glass: the Rise of anti-Semitism in Western Europe (Human Rights First report, 2002).
“When we are working, they ask us not to come near them. We cannot enter temples. We cannot use upper-caste water taps. When we ask for our rights from the government, the municipality officials threaten to fire us. So we don’t say anything. This is what happens to people who demand their rights.”
Read more in Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables.” (Human Rights Watch Report, March 1999).
The experiences of millions of people worldwide testify to a simple fact — racism undermines all human rights. Justice systems all too often perpetuate racism by mirroring the prejudices of their society.
Read about Racism and the Administration of Justice.
“We are served refreshment only in separate cups at roadside tea stalls, turned away from public swimming pools, stopped on highways as presumptive criminals, trafficked as prostitutes, denied our mother’s nationality, classed willy-nilly as “mentally disabled” in schools, and abducted into slavery.”
Meet the Speak Truth to Power’s Defenders speaking out on issues of racism around the world.
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa won the Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of democracy and justice in apartheid South Africa.
-Guillaume Ngefa Atondoko, Democratic Republic of Congo. His work to expose and hold to international standards Hutus, Tutsis and other factions in Congo, (formerly Zaire), made him an enemy to almost everyone with political power and a hero to human rights advocates.
‘I have also learned how closely contemporary forms of racism are bound up with the past. I believe this Conference could mark a historic breakthrough in the struggle against racism if agreement could be reached on language that recognizes historic injustices and expresses deep remorse for the crimes of the past.’
- Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Read about the landmark 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.