Letters to the Editor

Does Jamaica still discriminate based on race?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Today, March 21, the international community marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination under the theme 'Mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies'.

The decision to enshrine this day on the global calendar is linked to the fact that on March 21, 1960 police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid pass law in Sharpeville, South Africa. These were laws that forced black South Africans to carry an internal passport that restricted their movement in that country. In remembrance of the victims, in 1966 the UN General Assembly proclaimed that day the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

We have all seen the devastating tragedy in New Zealand in which over 50 people were killed in shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch on March 15. The terrorist attacks appear to have been carried out by a white nationalist extremist who posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the attacks on Facebook. Racist extremist movements that lead to massive attacks like those in New Zealand are based on ideologies that seek to promote populist, nationalist agendas. These are spreading in various parts of the world, fuelling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, often targeting migrants and refugees as well as people of African descent. These include Jamaicans living overseas.

Jamaica, however, while not facing similar attacks like those on March 15, is a country that continues to grapple with different life outcomes as a result of our slavery past. This history of enslavement has led to, and continues to perpetuate, the discrimination against some people on the basis of race and has spurred new national conversations on the lives of the black, the brown, and the white in Jamaica. All Jamaicans are equal, both under the 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but laws and rules do not always translate into actions.

The Centre for Reparation Research encourages all Jamaicans to take active steps to resist the growing global trend towards extreme supremacist ideologies and nationalist populism that has led to mass terror attacks in other countries and to continue to work for the elimination of racial discrimination in Jamaica and across the world.

Centre for Reparation Research

Regional Headquarters

The University of the West Indies

Kingston 7


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