Civil Rights

Elimination of Racial Discrimination Day

  • International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is March 21 of each year
  • It was established by the United Nations in 1966 to serve as a call to all nations to stamp-out all forms of racial discrimination
  • Get involved by participating in an activity in your community or by starting an activity on your own


Someone once said, "Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color." Unfortunately, this bit of wisdom isn't followed around the world.

A Day To Start and Try

On March 21, 1960, a group of several thousand people, mostly South African citizens and most of them black, marched in protest of that nation's "pass laws." The laws were designed to track and restrict the movement of black citizens in South Africa. They were at the very core of the apartheid regime: The South African government actively sought to segregate and separate it's black and white citizens.

The protesters marched to a police station in Sharpeville, South Africa with the intention of giving themselves up for arrest for refusing to carry their "pass cards." After several hours, the police opened fire on the crowd. There are reports the police were nervous and fired prematurely, and other reports that the protesters started throwing stones at the station and police cars.

Regardless, 69 protesters were killed and nearly 200 injured - most had been shot in the back, apparently as they tried to flee when the shooting started.

Six years later, in 1966, the United Nations (UN) established the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It's observed every year on March 21, and it's meant to serve as a call and a reminder for countries around the globe to do everything in their power to stamp-out all forms of racial discrimination. In South Africa, which no longer officially follows apartheid, March 21 is "Human Rights Day."


Many countries across the globe have laws against race-based discrimination. In the US, there are state and federal laws against racial discrimination in all sorts of settings and activities. For example, you can't be fired or denied a job or barred from buying or renting a home on the basis of your race. Many states have laws that protect your children from being harassed or "bullied" at school on the basis of race.

The UN is focusing on kids, too. It offers tools and resources to help educate our youth about racism and discrimination.

What You Can Do

There are any number of ways you can celebrate the Day and help stamp-out racial discrimination. For instance:

  • Check the UN's website for webcasts and other events
  • Take some time to talk about racism with your children. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has a website devoted to young people to learn about discuss matters like race and discrimination
  • Look in your local newspaper for race-based events, like cultural fairs, book-readings, art-showings, or any other events that celebrate other cultures and racial diversity and equality. If you can't find one, try to organize one and invite your neighbors, friends, and family to join in
  • If you see someone being treated unfairly because of his race, step in and try to stop it. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, ask for help from someone else, or talk to or console the victim when the confrontation is over

These are only a few examples. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Try to something, though. Even though we and other nations have anti-discrimination laws, discrimination still happens today. By educating yourself and your children and participating in some type event, no matter how small, can make a big impact.

Questions For Your Attorney

  • Do I need a permit or license if I want to have a "street party" for a cultural fair in my neighborhood?
  • What should I do if I think a co-worker is being discriminated against?
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