Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It's a long way to ...... Sharpeville

“We must combat all forms of intolerance by celebrating the diversity and the differences that enrich the human family. But we must work to reduce the differences that are imposed, rather than chosen, that speak of deprivation rather than fulfilment and that fuel the xenophobic discourse about the relative merit and desert of individuals based on stereotypical attributes attached to their race, religion or ethnicity.”
Louise ArbourUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Background of 21 March
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is marked every year on 21 March with activities led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, New York and at the field-presences. This year’s theme is Fighting Everyday Racism.
Forty-six years have passed since the Sharpeville massacre, where 69 demonstrators were shot and killed during a non-violent protest against apartheid on 21 March.

The UN's use of the Lego brick in its anti-racism has angered Lego, and it is one of the big stories in Danish media today. Not a single one asks the question: Maybe it's intentional. What does the UN want to call attention to?

Look at the broad definition of "racism" and its many shapes. This is not to say that Lego is racist, but if you look at the many places where Lego has been used in an emblematic way, maybe you can see what the UN's point may be. Lego has become a symbol of freedom of expression, used by oddly well-dressed and well-fed people. They do not look like the crowd that protest over the cartoons.

Freedom of speech in this form is a privilege of the few. Where the poor man in the 3rd world goes into his hut to worship Allah, the middle class in the rich countries enjoy freedom of speech at their computers with broadband connection to a world of opportunities. There are many bricks in the wall that separates man from fellow man i Palestine. There is a complicated jig-saw puzzle to see through to determine how people of different ethnicities are treated differently in the metropolises of the world. To say it's not racism that people with a certain skin colour or behavioral characteristics do not have access to the same goods as those with other characteristics have, is to miss the point.

There may be another hint to Denmark. What country was in the frontline in the struggle against apartheid in the years after the Sharpeville massacre, when the South African government hardened its separatist and racist policies? That country is no longer in the front line. Last week the Danish prime minister had to cancel a tour to India. It was obviously too controversial to receive him.


Blogger Steven said...

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6:15 PM  

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