I grew up in a multicultural environment next to the Caribbean Sea in Nicaragua among indigenous people, african groups, and the white population. Yes, there is racial discrimination among these ethnic groups; however, the impact is when you travel to the Pacific part of the country.
When I moved to Managua to attend the university, it was the first time I realized and confirmed that I was different from others. My physical complexion, my hair, my Spanish accent, and other characteristics gave rise to a lot of questions, comments, and looks.
I remember that one night I and my friends when clubbing. Two friends entered without any problem, but when it was my turn, the guy at the door said to me:
Club: You can’t enter.
Club: Because you are under age.
My friends decided to come out because we got it clear that it was a discrimination act since it was not the first time we were at the club. Incidents like this repeatedly happened to other black girls at the same club.
But what is racial discrimination? According to Article 1 of the International Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination describes it “as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.
Years later, over the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Finland, I have also experienced racial discrimination. Once I was in a taxi queue with a friend when we heard a man said: black shit. Both of us decided to ignore him. Another incident happened while shopping with a friend from the Middle East in a supermarket, in one of the aisles a man that was passing by said: It smells likes shit.
Today, 21st of March, is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, established in 1966, by the United Nations after considering all the previous resolutions of discrimination and apartheid.
This day was chosen in memory of the 69 people (women, men, and children) killed outside the police station in Sharpeville, South Africa (1960), while they held a peaceful demonstration against apartheid law that required all black people to carry identity documentation, which was known as “pass book” at all times.
Five years previous to this incident, in the United States of America, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger while she was going home from work in Montgomery. At this time, bus was segregated, white people were allowed to sit in front and black people in the back. Black passengers were permitted to get on the bus in front to buy their ticket, but after, needed to get off and re-board the bus through the back door.
Today, Rosa can sit anywhere on a bus, I can “move around in a city” freely without my Passport; nevertheless, racial discrimination is palpable around us. Even though a lot of countries had signed the convention mentioned above, it does not mean that society and governments have stopped practicing policies that violate our fundamental human rights.
It looks like it never ends because to the above list I need to add sex discrimination which, is defined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.”
Human beings are different and also hassle among us. Unfortunately, some people live more discrimination than others. For example, I can be a double or triple discriminated person, because I am a woman, black, and immigrant. We all have different categories of discrimination, some have less and others more, but, the fact is that we should not have any.
I experienced double discrimination in Cuba. I was painted on the wall for many since they thought I was a prostitute, therefore; I didn’t have the right to ask or comment. It pissed me off a lot, even though, I knew it was a possible scenario. I got to admit it was annoying and frustrating. I remember that I had their attention when I got sick and they realized that I was not a Cuban.
It makes me mad and sad to know that there are people with a narrow and ignorant mind, globally. Nevertheless, I continue to fight against any form of discrimination, and for that, I think it is important to know your identity and be proud of who you are.
Moreover, it is important to create ways or codes for your physical and mental well-being to struggle with this issue. I use, for example, the “mirror code”, ask the same question they ask you, ignore the comments, looks, etc., and say positive phrases to her or him. If you see someone being discriminated, support them. It is better two than one to kindly confront this situation. Last but not least, avoid being violent.
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