The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured worldwide attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.
The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966. It also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983.
Issues of race and racism continue to permeate our society and organization, and we as a Union cannot condone behaviors that are demeaning to individuals because of their race. Certainly, racism at its core detracts from our common purpose of union solidarity. We must continue to confront and challenge racism. Today, on March 21, we ask that you take the time to reflect on the negative impacts incidents of racism have had on our union and our work, and think of ways we can contribute to move us all forward in an inclusive environment.