Racism and all other forms of hatred have no place in an open, pluralistic society. However, racism, discrimination and marginalisation are still ever-present in many areas of life. From disparaging looks or hurtful remarks to disadvantages in the application process for a flat, a job or a childcare place to hostility, violence and even fatal attacks. Racism is unfortunately a sad reality, including here in Germany.
And so, today in particular, a day that is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Sharpeville massacre, as well as every other day, I would like to urge for us all to take a clear and consistent stance, to critically examine our own actions, prejudices and thought patterns, and to stand up together for open, peaceful and tolerant societies. Because racism is a threat to the people affected and to our democracy. As long as racism exists in our society and perhaps even in our own immediate environment, we cannot remain neutral. It falls to all of us, every day, to defend the dignity of every individual and stand up for equal rights and opportunities.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was launched in 1966 by the United Nations and is observed every year on 21 March, the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. In Sharpeville, South Africa, on 21 March 1960, South African Police units shot dead 69 people and injured many more when they opened fire on a group of peaceful protesters. The group had gathered to protest against the apartheid laws that were then in place.