the legal, justice, law

The Injustice of Racial Discrimination

Discrimination is the act of treating a person or a group of persons unfairly and unequally because of unjustified distinctions based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, language, status, sexual orientation, etc… and denies people their human legal rights[1].

Discrimination can take several forms one of which is racism. In 1979, the UN General Assembly decided to adopt a week of solidarity with the people struggling against racism and racial discrimination beginning on 21 March which became the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This came after the South African police, in 1960, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the system of racial segregation and discrimination laws in the country[2].

 Racism was the reason behind the most hideous atrocities in the world such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda when members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group and the Hutu were slaughtered by armed militias[3]. To this day, racism still affects and harms people’s lives on a daily basis. The most recent racist fueled attacks are the COVID-related hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans in the US[4].

 Anti-discrimination laws were enacted in several countries in an attempt to halt racial injustice. The ERA Academy of European Law issued on June 29, 2000, a directive entitled “Implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin”[5]. This directive considered that the right to equality before the law and protection against discrimination for all persons constitutes a universal right recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several conventions to which all Member States of the European Union are signatories. Article 15 and 16 of the directives indicated that it is upon each Member State to “lay down the rules on sanctions applicable to infringements” of the provisions of this directive, to “take all measures necessary to ensure that they are applied”, to “adopt the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive” and ensure its implementation.

In 1975, Australia introduced the Racial Discrimination Act which deemed unlawful any act by a person “involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin” for the purpose of disrupting the enjoyment of any human right or fundamental political, economic, social or cultural right[6].

 In the United States, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 declared African-Americans to be citizens entitled to a series of rights previously reserved to white men such as the right to purchase property or the right to make and enforce contracts. Although the original purpose of this Act was to protect African-Americans, courts interpreted it to protect people of all races from discrimination[7].

Every person has the right to live without fear of being discriminated against, considering that racial discrimination can happen anywhere, such as in the workplace or at school.  Every person has the right to be treated equally with dignity and respect and any racial discrimination should not be tolerated noting that racism and hate can be disguised as jokes or political opinions. 

Accordingly, States must take all necessary steps to give full effect to the right to equality in all activities. In particular, States must take all appropriate measures, most notably the issuance of anti-discrimination laws, and adopt all appropriate constitutional, legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the right to equality. It is also upon States to modify or abolish any existing laws or regulations or practices that discriminate against individuals.  It is of utmost importance to promote equality and spread awareness on racial discrimination especially upon the youth and younger generations in order to build a more thoughtful and respectful society characterized by the solidarity of its members, and it is our job to make this a reality.

Marina Ibrahim

[1] Discrimination, <https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/discrimination>, consulted on March 4, 2021.

[2] International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 21 March, <https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-racism-day>, consulted on March 4, 2021.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jonathan A. Greenblatt, A rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans and others, <https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/opinion/letters/hate-crimes-asian-americans.html>, consulted on March 4, 2021.

[5] EU Anti-discrimination Laws,< https://era-comm.eu/eu-anti-discrimination-law/ >, consulted on March 4, 2021.

[6] Racial Discrimination Act,< https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C00089>,  consulted on March 4, 2021.

[7] Lisa Guerin, Federal Antidiscrimination Laws, <https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/federal-antidiscrimination-laws-29451.html>, consulted on March 4, 2021.

 
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